Mom and dad may need them but their bosses are not sympathetic. Often it comes down to a difficult choice.
By Sonia Goncalves
Initially, it was just taking dad to a few appointments here and there as his vision declined and driving became unsafe. Then it became running small errands, and checking in daily to ensure he was taking his medication before dinner. After dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he eventually needed all his meals prepared for him, assistance with personal hygiene and someone to make sure the bills were paid and the lights stayed on. Before Carole knew it, she was spending over 20 hours a week caring for her father and helping her mother on top of her full-time job working as a financial planner. Gradually, her boss began to keep track of how often she left the office early and coworkers began questioning why her father needed so much care. One afternoon, as Carole was rushing out of the office to get dad to a doctor’s appointment, her boss gave her a choice: her father’s care or her job.
For many working caregivers this scenario is all too familiar. A recent survey found that half of working female caregivers feel they have to choose between being “a good employee” or “being a good daughter.” On top of this, a quarter of working daughters find there is a workplace stigma associated with caring for an aging parent, and 23 per cent have found that their supervisor is unsympathetic. We often hear about the challenges of working women who are raising young children, but rarely do we discuss the challenges they face while navigating a career when caring for an aging parent. In an effort to start a conversation about how working family caregivers can be better supported.
The challenges facing working caregivers are of course gender neutral and the tips provided can assist both males and females. However, with Statistics Canada research showing that women are almost twice as likely as their male counterparts to spend 20 or more hours per week on caregiving tasks, it’s important to acknowledge the stigma and challenge facing many women navigating the dual struggles of working full time and caring for an aging loved one. In doing so, we can make the workplace better for both employees and their employers and, at the same time, help loved ones receive the care they need.
Sonia Goncalves is the Director of Client and Community Services at Home Instead Senior Care (Toronto East). Read about Home Instead’s “Daughters in the Workplace” public education program at daughtersintheworkplace.ca