Almost 75 percent of caregivers are female. In fact, the “average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and provides 20 hours per week of unpaid care to her mother.” While we love that so many women value and support their families, we also know that’s a lot of work for women to take on in addition to their full- or part-time jobs. Imagine juggling informal care such medicine dosages or bathing for spouses, parents, friends, and neighbors while also worrying about your annual review. It’s exhausting.
When you’re constantly prioritizing the health and needs of others, it can be easy to neglect your own health—mentally and physically. The pressure associated with caring for someone else can lead to health problems of your own like sleep deprivation, not enough exercise, stress-induced eating habits, and more. What’s the first step to reduce these side effects? Self-care.
What you can do
Start an exercise routine
There are tons and tons of quick workouts on the internet—if you search quick workouts on YouTube, you’ll find every workout under the sun, from a five-minute ab workout to a 10-minute yoga flow without leaving your bed in the morning. Couple this routine with balanced meals and a healthy sleeping schedule.
Go get a checkup at the doctor
Everyone needs to get routinely checked out by a doctor at least once a year, especially caregivers. Providing round-the-clock care can leave caregivers feeling burnt out, and that takes a toll physically. Make an appointment to make sure you’re allowing yourself the proper care you need.
Take regular breaks
During your day, make sure you’re taking a 15 or 20 minute break once or twice to check in with yourself. Breathe, take your mind off your duties for a second, and have a moment to yourself. It’s not selfish—you deserve it.
Find ways to unwind at the end of the day
Do whatever makes you happy and relaxed—whether it be taking a bubble bath, reading a good book, or watching a movie on the couch with popcorn.
Stay connected socially
It’s easy to feel isolated as a caregiver, especially if you’re providing care 24/7. Make sure you’re maintaining a healthy social life and are keeping in touch with those that care about you.
How companies can help
Help caregiver employees manage stress
It’s super important to help caregivers manage their stress and responsibilities like communicating with doctors and maybe even navigating legal issues. Host a lunch-time counselling speaker series or host yoga sessions during lunch or after work.
Communicate current company benefits
Your company might have resources and benefits for caregivers that aren’t widely known, like an employee assistance program or reimbursable elder care services. Make sure employees know what's available to them so they can reach their maximum potential.
Offer flexible work schedules
Informal caregiving is a huge responsibility on top of a full-time job. By offering employees flexible arrangements like the ability to telecommute, you’ll take a huge weight off their shoulders. Work out a schedule that allows the caregiver to both breathe and get their work done in a timely manner.
Create a quiet space
Caregivers often have to take time to make phone calls to physicians or for appointments, and providing a comfortable, quiet space inside the office can be a huge help.
So what companies are already doing a good job? Deloitte offers 16 weeks fully paid family leave. Workday offers a personal concierge service to help book appointments or run errands as well as discounted child and elder care. Adobe offers a “Welcome Back” program that aids employees in the transition back from extended time off with part-time and work-from-home options. So wherever you work, make sure you’re taking advantage of all self-care benefits.