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Women and men stress over childcare and eldercare

Monday, April 8, 2013   (0 Comments)
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More Canadian professionals, including men, are stepping up their roles as family caregivers -- and stressing out about it, according to a recent study underwritten by Desjardins Insurance.

Out of more than 25,000 employees surveyed, 25 percent to 35 percent are balancing work, care giving and/or childcare, according to "Balancing Work, Childcare and Eldercare." Sixty percent of those in the caregiver group have both children and elderly parents. The result: cramped, often overwhelming schedules that include working 45 hours a week, while spending more than 10 hours on eldercare and up to 30 hours a week on childcare.

Researchers Linda Duxbury of Carleton University and Christopher Higgins of the University of Western Ontario's Ivey School of Business surveyed 25,000 employees, 8,000 of whom provided statistics on care giving. "The people with kids are more stressed and those with elder care are more depressed, and if you are sandwiched with both you really lose -- you are stressed and depressed," Duxbury said.

Proportionally, women still shoulder more of the eldercare responsibilities, the study found. Women are three times as likely as men to be caregivers for elders alone, and as much as twice as likely to care for both children and aging parents.

Younger men, however, are finding themselves feeling more responsible than ever for the well-being of their parents. "Women are more educated, earn more money and are equal breadwinners today, which gives them more say on who does what,” Duxbury said. "At the same time, younger men feel responsible for their parents. What really sticks out among young men between ages 30 and 45 is they are really part of egalitarian families and that doesn't make things better for women. It makes things worse for men.”

Still, only 60 percent of those interviewed said care-giving responsibilities have created a negative impact on their professional lives. Skills learned as a caregiver often inform diplomacy and patience with colleagues, while experience in crisis management offers valuable insights toward care giving.

Ultimately, it is the employers who may be pressed to offer caregiver-friendly benefits to recruit and retain skilled employees. Flexible work arrangements, employee assistance programs and caregiver support networks would help offset the approximately $25 billion families spend each year for informal care as professional duties compete with family responsibilities, the report noted.

"How are we going to remain competitive when we aren't paying attention to the fact that we have a huge number in the most productive stage of the career cycle having to deal with kids, elder care, demanding jobs and unrelenting email?” asks Duxbury.

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