According to national research, by and large, women are the primary caregivers in our country. As recently as 2015, nearly 70% of caregivers were women. Women don’t just provide for their children and keep the household running—they act as caregivers for older family members as well.
A role we don’t expect to have
“Caregiving isn’t a role we expect to have, and yet, many people are living longer today. Caregiving will impact most of us at some point in our lives,” says Kelli Davis, program coordinator for the Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes at Kettering Health Network. “The mental, physical, and emotional stress of caregiving often goes unreported and untreated until caregivers burn out or become ill themselves.”
When it comes to balancing caregiving with the rest of life’s demands, one national study showed that 33% of women had to decrease work hours due to caregiving. Additionally, 29% passed up a job promotion, training, or assignment; 20% switched from full-time to part-time employment; 16% quit their jobs; and 13% retired early to meet caregiving demands.
How do you prevent burnout?
“Caregivers must embrace self-care,” Kelli says. “Identify what areas you have control over—it could be as simple as incorporating 15 minutes per day of activities you enjoy, like reading a book, talking a walk outside, praying, journaling, or talking with a friend.”
Asking for help is also key. Kelli shares that many times caregivers assume that family members don’t want to help share the load of caregiving. “However, when we provide tools on how to ask for specific help or how to set up a family meeting, people start to see things through a new lens.”
Kelli advises asking family members to identify ways that they are comfortable helping. For example, some family members may not be comfortable helping with certain personal care tasks but are more than willing to pitch in with grocery shopping and food prep.
Life after caregiving
“It’s important for women to remember that there is life after caregiving. Learning how to navigate the ever-changing ‘normal’ for caregivers takes time,” Kelli says. “Because of the multi-faceted role that women play in the family and as caregivers, they need a range of support services to remain healthy and to remain in their caregiving role.”
Powerful Tools for Caregivers is an educational workshop for people who are taking care of a family member or friend, designed specifically to support the family caregiver and improve his or her well-being. Kettering Health Network offers multiple Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes in several different locations throughout the year. Call (937) 558-3988 to learn more or to register.
 MetLife Mature Market Institute, National Alliance for Caregiving and The National Center on Women and Aging. (1999 November). The Metlife juggling act study: Balancing caregiving with work and the costs involved.