COVID-19

More Than 4 in 10 Family Caregivers May Have to Choose Between Jobs and At-Home Duties, Study Finds

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  • With families still grappling with the effects of the Covid pandemic, many workers with jobs who also care for a loved one at home have reached a breaking point, according to a Fidelity Investments study.
  • While over two-thirds are ready for challenges, more than 4 in 10 may soon have to choose between jobs and at-home caregiving responsibilities.
  • However, many companies are now offering more support, and creating a “road map” may reduce stress, experts say.

With many families still grappling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, many at-home caregivers who also have outside jobs have reached a breaking point, according to a Fidelity Investments study.

While more than two-thirds of family caregivers looking after children and adults say they are ready for challenges, nearly half say they can't manage another year like the last one, the findings show.

"I think caregivers are entering this stage of the pandemic with a mixture of anxiety and optimism," said Stacey Watson, senior vice president of life events at Fidelity Investments, pointing to the survey's varied responses.

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But while some feel resilient, others are still struggling. Some 42% of those caring for children at home say they will "fall apart" if school or professional child care doesn't get better soon.

And others face difficult choices: More than 4 in 10 working caregivers may have to pick between their jobs and family duties in the coming year, the study shows.

"Caregiving has become increasingly complex over the last few years, placing an uneven weight on many women, who all too often shoulder the brunt of family duties," Watson said.

Indeed, more than 1 in 5 adults — or 53 million Americans — are unpaid caregivers, according to a report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, and 61% are women.

While many such caregivers feel appreciated, nearly 6 in 10 lack time for their mental health amid family responsibilities, the study finds.

But some companies have stepped up by offering employees who also care for family members more flexibility, financial and emotional support.

"Many companies are realizing that they need to support their employees more with caregiving, not only because they need the support, but also to retain workers," Watson said.

And the trend is expected to continue, with nearly two-thirds of employers planning to boost child-care benefits and more than 4 in 10 wanting to expand senior-care offerings, according to a Care.com and LifeCare survey of human resource professionals and C-suite decision-makers.

However, many caregivers aren't leveraging these perks, with fewer than half of eligible employees asking companies about these benefits, the study found. 

"​​It never hurts to have the conversation with your employer and tell them about your situation," Watson said.

Moreover, at-home caregivers may reduce their stress by creating a responsibility road map — a step taken by only 15% of respondents to an earlier version of the study — including a list of duties when caring for children or aging adults, along with possible sources of help, Watson said.

Those who developed and put a plan into place felt better prepared and said it made "caregiving significantly less stressful," according to the findings.

Fidelity Investments' study covers findings from a survey conducted between Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 of 716 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, who are caregivers for children or adults or may become caregivers.

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