The young, adult children with disabilities and the elderly or persons with dementia are some family members that caregivers devote a significant portion of their time to care for.
Relying on a full-time social worker or domestic worker is not always a solution. As such, the caregiving burden rests on the closest kin. They can, therefore, be referred to as informal caregivers – a role they take on without the monetary benefits received by caregivers of patients in medical institutions.
If you’re a primary caregiver at home, you’ll understand that dividing time between caring for others, your full-time job and personal time can be a challenge.
Finding ways to address this early on is important so that you can feel in control when navigating caregiving duties and your own responsibilities.
But what are the caregiver stressors?
What is the main struggle of a caregiver?
The main struggle of a caregiver is the emotional toll that comes with the responsibility of caring for another individual. They often prioritise such informal care responsibilities over their personal lives, leading to exhaustion, burnout and feelings of isolation.
However, the caregiving journey remains an important part of the lives of many people. They want to ensure their loved ones are cared for. This also stems from family values.
As a mother, for example, ensuring she’s there for her child throughout the toddler years reflects her devotion to motherhood.
In other instances, children caring for their elderly parents is an act of filial piety, a belief they’ve ingrained since young.
Previously, we discussed how daunting it is for caregivers to manage their full-time jobs together with caregiving duties. These challenges often lead them to reduce working hours or leave the workforce completely.
Leaving a job to become a full-time caregiver is not an option due to financial reasons. Caregivers also face financial challenges, as the cost of medical treatment and other daily living expenses can add up quickly.
This is more critical when they need to provide long-term care, so having a regular stream of household income is important.
That’s not all. Those who remain employed not only face stress at home but also at work when expectations are not being met.
This adds more stressors for caregivers.
Finding a balance is, therefore, key. This means setting aside time to prioritise self-care and seeking support from others to avoid caregiver strain.
One way they can reduce caregiver burnout is to rely on employment benefits to pull them through.
What kinds of perks allow these individuals to handle stress as a caregiver?
Employee benefits to reduce caregiver stress
By law, employers are obliged to provide certain categories of employee benefits to ensure that employers can maintain a work-life balance.
In recent years, community groups such as the Association of Women for Action and Research have urged the government to make eldercare leave statutory.
This is amid growing concerns about an ageing population and the corresponding demand for caregiving.
The government has provided various caregiving grants and subsidies to support caregivers of seniors and persons with dementia and other disabilities. However, these individuals often face caregiver stress when they struggle to maintain informal caregiving responsibilities with job demands.
Many caregivers must continue to work to provide for their families.
What working caregivers can do for themselves is to take charge of their choice of employment in ways that suit the caregiving process and their mental health.
When looking for new roles to better support their caregiving duties, look out for several perks to help manage caregiver stress at home.
1. Family Care Leave
In Singapore, family care leave can be described by various types of entitlements. These include:
Family care leave, therefore, addresses various aspects of caregiving.
This allows employees who have caregiving duties at home to take additional leave without having to use up their annual and sick leave entitlements all the time. Employers can claim from the government when they provide such employment benefits to those eligible.
2. Work from home
Work from home or ‘Flexi-place’ policies are examples of Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) recommended by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices in Singapore.
Companies that adopt FWA policies contribute to a supportive work environment where caregivers are given the flexibility to work while fulfilling caregiving commitments.
Being able to work at home while caring for their family members helps caregivers alleviate the anxiety and stress of, for instance, leaving their loved ones alone at home.
It also allows caregivers to minimise work stress as they have more flexibility in completing their tasks at home, compared to the rigid environment back in the workplace.
The same flexibility allows them to segment time for themselves more effectively. This helps them improve their mental health and enhance their quality of life.
3. Paid time off
Paid time off for caregiving is another helpful solution for caregivers who need to manage informal caregiving duties during workdays when no other care options are available to them.
For instance, those who need to run errands for family members, such as taking elderly parents to the doctor or attending to the needs of adult children with autism, can request paid time off specifically for such cases.
Employers who offer these provisions give caregivers better control over both work and caregiving responsibilities.
Caregivers can complete their work for the day within a few hours and have the rest of the time off.
Paid time off can also be seen as an alternative or an addition to family care leave, providing more options for caregivers to make better work and care arrangements.
4. Employee Assistance Programme
Discussing mental health issues caused by caregiver distress is vital.
Apart from additional leave arrangements, caregivers will need continuous support to avoid burnout due to caregiver burden and stress.
Stressed caregivers who may not have others to turn to for support will benefit from professional counselling services through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
Employers such as PwC Singapore and Dow Chemical Pacific (Singapore) engage external vendors to provide the EAP to support employees with or without mental health conditions. There are also counselling services for personal and work-related problems.
Through such community care programmes, caregivers can seek continuous mental health support and manage stress caused by the dual role. This can be done without incurring additional time and costs to access such resources outside of work.
What caregivers can do
Caregivers should proactively look for employers offering such leave benefits so that they can have a better idea of how to manage work expectations against caregiving demands and reduce stress.
If the job descriptions do not provide enough information on the company’s employment benefits, you can:
- Read up on employees’ experiences on community job forums such as Glassdoor
- Explore the organisations’ social profiles online
- Network with existing employees on LinkedIn to understand the company better
- Ask questions about employee culture during the interview, and if the situation permits, share with the interviewer about your caregiver role. This allows the employer to understand you better and allows for meaningful discussions on whether the role is suitable.
At the end of the day, you want to maintain a balance between your job and your caregiver role. Should you learn at the interview stage that the role may cause a strain, you can decide to move on and look for other opportunities. If the organisation is still keen to hire you, it may work out a customised work arrangement based on your needs.
Caregivers of people are a selfless community of individuals who put the care of others ahead of their own. This is especially so for family members who take on informal caregiving roles.
Without sufficient support and self-care, the experience can prove to be mentally taxing. The longer this goes on, the more challenging it becomes to address mental health issues. This can also impact care recipients.
The path forward for family caregivers can be fruitful as long as they take the necessary steps to safeguard their quality of life.
If you have informal care responsibilities but are unable to leave your job, considering the above benefits at the heart of your job search can help you manage caregiving stress and prevent burnout.
Take care of yourself as you care for your loved one.