Caregivers and The 50-hour Week

There are some callings that come from the deepest corners of the heart. One of them is caring for an aging parent.

Every year on National Caregiver’s Day we show appreciation to this remarkably resilient group of individuals who selflessly and bravely care for others. It should be every day, really.

Most of us have been called on to show up for others from time to time, but caregivers are known for going above and beyond, and according to new research, at least 10 hours beyond what a typical 9 to 5 job requires!

Caregivers and Work-Life Balance

Of all the jobs we’re given in life, few demand more patience, strength, and apparently, time.

In the constant struggle to balance work and family obligations, most of us have declared, “There’s not enough hours in the day!” For men and women in their 40s and 50s who are overcommitted in more ways than we can count, this rings especially true. Known as the Sandwich Generation, these middle-aged adults are challenged with balancing dual responsibilities of caring for children and elderly parents.

A new research study released by New York Life shines a light on the time commitment they face in this role. According to the study, Sandwich Generation adults spend 22 hours per week providing care for their aging relative and another 28 hours per week providing care for children. In total, around 50 hours each week!

Financial Challenges and Caregivers

The idea that caregiving extends beyond what a typical full-time job requires is only part of the story. Caregiving demands have implications far beyond how many hours there are—or more accurately, how many hours there aren’t—in a day.

The study brought to light the staggering time commitment caregiving requires, but another jarring insight revealed excessive financial strain, too. Turns out nearly half of middle-aged adults were unable to cover daily expenses like rent, groceries, or medical care at certain points during the last year. Record-high inflation, a surge in childcare expenses, and the burden of student loans is creating a substantial dent in the financial health of this generation, which extends to millennials, who now make up a growing part of the “sandwich.”

For younger caregivers, in addition to caregiving, navigating the complexities of financial priorities ranging from starting a family to buying a house often requires them to work more hours at a job or use their personal savings and retirement funds just to get by.

Career Challenges and Caregivers

The role of family caregiver is not easy, even for those able to maintain a career along with their caregiving duties. Many adults in the New York Life study reported having to reduce their hours or even turn down promotions due to the strain of managing both aspects of their lives.

The impact of leaving the workforce—even temporarily—can have a lasting impact, according to AARP.  The loss of income may reduce social security benefits decades down the road. In fact, older caregivers are more likely to retire early due to leaving the workforce to provide care for a family member. This early retirement tends to be more expensive than holding out until age 65 when Medicare coverage typically starts.

Self-Care and Caregivers

If you are a caregiver, you already know caregiving goes beyond finances and time management; it encompasses managing an array of daily tasks from bathing to cooking to chaperoning, and more. In other words, dedicating a huge chunk of time and energy towards the wellbeing of others. The ultimate price is the huge chunk of time and energy that is directed away from yourself.

Most middle-aged adults are busy juggling family commitments and job responsibilities of their own. To regain some semblance of balance, many seek the assistance of a senior living community. Senior living facilities provide personal care and support to seniors in a safe and social environment, freeing up precious time for caregivers who may need to return to work.

A senior living community like Sonata provides support so that caregiving duties can be shared, reducing some of the pressure associated with meeting the needs of both children and aging parents simultaneously. By moving to a senior living community, caregivers are afforded an opportunity to reconnect with their loved ones without stress and time constraints associated with caregiving.

The support offered by an assisted living community also helps prevent caregiver burnout, a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that occurs when a caregiver becomes overwhelmed or overextended.

Caregivers who provide care to a loved one with dementia are more likely to experience extreme emotional and physical exhaustion due to the unique challenges associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms. Due to risk-prone behaviors such as wandering, it’s important to recognize signs that it may be time for help from a memory care community.

Family Caregivers and the Power of Love

There are libraries filled with books that teach us how provide care, but few that solve for the lack of time, energy, and resources many caregivers face.

Despite these challenges, the devotion and dedication of family caregivers is testament to the profound power of love that is permanently woven into familial ties.

There are numerous ways to show appreciation to the caregivers in your life, but the most practical may be offering assistance. Considering the 50-hour work week they endure, it’s apparent that most caregivers could benefit from extra time to themselves. A genuine offer to help, even if it’s just for a short while, can encourage caregivers to take the time they need for a little self-care.

The experience of caring for an aging parent teaches us that amid the challenges and changes the naturally come with age, the human capacity to show love, compassion, and care remains timeless.

At Sonata, caring for seniors and caregivers and helping them live their best life is our passion. Partnering with our resident’s families to provide care makes that possible. Find out how we work as your caregiving partner and schedule a visit today to a Sonata community near you.

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