As the UK population gets older, an increasing number of individuals are undertaking the unpaid role of providing care to elderly family members, but at the cost of their mental health.
With this week being Mental Health Awareness Week, we are exploring the ways in which elder care can affect mental health, including the burden on the carer, and the financial stress and guilt associated with moving a family member into care.
Here at myTamarin we recognise the impact that life events can have on mental health and are always here to help support employees through six critical challenges, one of these being providing virtual and physical elder care support.
The Emotional Impact of Caregiving
Caring for an elderly relative often involves a myriad of responsibilities, from assisting with daily tasks to managing medical needs. This constant demand for care can lead to feelings of overwhelm, stress, and emotional exhaustion.
Carers may experience high levels of stress and anxiety as they try to balance their caring responsibilities with other commitments, such as work and family.
Harvard Business School reported that 80% of employees with eldercare responsibilities believed their care responsibilities impacted their work. With this in mind, companies need to start doing more to support employees through this.
People often report feelings of social isolation, particularly if they are unable to take time off from caring to participate in social activities. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
The provision of elder care can also take a physical toll on carers. Many carers experience physical symptoms, such as fatigue, back pain and headaches, as a result of their caring responsibilities.
They may struggle to find time for self-care activities, such as exercise and relaxation, which can exacerbate these symptoms.
For those people who are carers alongside working, often the negative impact can include:
- Poor concentration
- Increased stress and absenteeism
- Inhibited career development (turning down promotions or not applying for them)
- Reduction in working hours/giving up their job completely as they cannot manage both
Companies need to recognise the impact that caring can have on someone’s work life, and be as accommodating and understanding as possible. Allowing flexible working hours is a start, but is not the only thing that they should be doing.
Providing employees with expert support throughout this challenging time would increase productivity, retention, and overall employee satisfaction.
The Ever Growing Financial Burden
One of the most significant challenges associated with elder care is the financial cost. The cost of care can be very high, particularly for those who require full-time residential care.
According to the UK Care Guide, the cost of a nursing home in the UK can be up to £55,000 per year, and is only getting more expensive. This can be a significant burden for families, particularly those who are already struggling to make ends meet, or who are already spending a lot on childcare (the “Sandwich Generation”).
The financial cost of elder care can have a profound impact on mental health. Many families may experience anxiety, stress and depression as they struggle to find ways to pay for care.
They may worry about how they will be able to afford care, particularly if they are already on a limited budget. When it comes to funding, people can get help from their local authority if they are eligible - more information around this can be found in this Age UK guide.
In some cases, families may be forced to make difficult choices, such as selling their home or taking on significant debt, in order to pay for care. These decisions can take a significant toll on mental health.
Companies are not yet paying attention to the impact that this may be having on employees, and as a result, employees do not feel they are able to have an open discussion about their difficulties and can feel very isolated.
At myTamarin we understand the impact that these life stages can have on mental health and offer virtual support across six critical life stages (fertility & family forming, pregnancy loss, early parenthood, childcare, menopause, and elder care) and physical support across childcare and eldercare.
We understand that whilst HR teams within companies are there to support their employees, they do not have the capacity to support everyone. Providing access to myTamarin would mean employees will always have expert advice, their consultations remain completely confidential, and they will always have someone for emotional support.
Moving a Relative Into Full Time Care - the Impact
One of the most challenging decisions a caregiver may face is whether to move their elderly relative into residential care. This decision can be emotionally overwhelming and is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and sadness.
Caregivers may feel a profound sense of guilt, believing that they are abandoning their loved one or failing in their duty to provide care. They may question whether they have exhausted all other options and worry about the quality of care their relative will receive in a residential setting.
The decision can also be incredibly stressful for families. It involves navigating the complex process of finding a suitable care facility, managing finances, and coordinating the logistics of the transition. The stress of making such a decision, coupled with concerns about the well-being of their loved one, can lead to heightened anxiety and emotional strain.
Giving employees access to expert advice and guidance throughout the process would give them the confidence to feel they have made the right decision, and reduce the feeling of guilt and uncertainty.
myTamarin has a pool of experts who are able to support employees with navigating the elder care options available to them.
What Should Companies Remember?
Caring for an elderly relative is a demanding and selfless role that can have a profound impact on a caregiver's mental health. The emotional strain, financial stress, and the difficult decision of whether to send a loved one into residential care can all contribute to heightened anxiety, stress, and feelings of guilt.
It is crucial for companies to recognise that they need to support the caregivers within their firm and provide them access to support throughout this difficult time.
Companies that use elder care as an employee benefit report an increase in productivity (fewer sick or mental health days) and loyalty & appreciation- thus leading to higher retention numbers.
Elder care, just like childcare, impacts women more than men as women are more likely to take a primary caregiving role and have intense caregiving burdens than men. Offering support for elder care will also result in an increase in attraction and retention of diverse talent.
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