If you’ve ever watched a street performer juggle, you might think it looks easy. But family caregivers juggling a loved one’s needs with their own lives can find they are not always as successful as the professional performer!
Family caregivers need balance between caregiving responsibilities and career. Initially, family caregivers can find creative ways to balance the increasing demands of the two obligations (I squeezed in parental visits and caregiving phone calls before going to the office in the morning, on my lunch hour, and on the way home from work); however, they may quickly find both jobs impossible and can “drop the ball”. Rightly so, as keeping up with the needs of a loved one and an employer can stretch family caregivers thin.
A newly-developed initiative involving University of Alberta research, Caregivers Alberta, and MatchWork aims to help. Dr. Janet Fast, Professor and Co-Director of the Aging Policies and Practice Research program, said “My research team is collaborating with MatchWork, a tech start-up that empowers employment service agencies working with hard-to-employ people. Caregivers Alberta, a non-profit organization whose goal it is to improve the lives of family caregivers—will be the testing ground.”
Based on Fast’s research, MatchWork will ask working caregivers to complete profiles and then provide job recommendations, said Kenya Kondo, MatchWork cofounder. “The focus is on connecting caregivers to meaningful work. Meaningful as self-identified by each individual.”
“Employers will have more satisfied and productive employees—less absenteeism, less 'presenteeism', and less turnover, all of which affect the bottom line," said Fast. "The result should be a more productive workplace overall and improved profitability.” Fast defines presenteeism as being distracted while at work (e.g. by concern about the well-being of the person in need of care), interruptions (e.g. phone calls from the care receiver or a visiting paid caregiver) or managing care from work (e.g. making appointments, talking to health care providers). Kondo adds that employers will have a better understanding of the needs of those employees with caregiving responsibilities and the value they add to the team.
The time for this partnership and plan is right, Fast said. “More than three-quarters of family caregivers are trying to develop their careers at the same time. And about one-third of the Canadian labour force has family care responsibilities. The time-consuming and unpredictable nature of family caregiving makes it difficult for many to work their jobs in the usual way. Many miss whole or part days of work, are distracted, have to reduce work hours, are fired, or have to give up work altogether.”
Kondo agrees. “While the need for care is growing, the dual-earner family is the norm and is critical to making ends meet. The potential for family care work and paid work to overlap is growing too," she said. "The pandemic has made it clear that our formal care systems have severe limitations and that they are unsustainable without the contributions of family caregivers. It has also demonstrated that the family care sector is fragile, challenging employed caregivers in particular.”
Kondo said the research phase of the project will be completed in 2022 with the caregiver module on the MatchWork platform expected to be launched in late 2022 or early 2023. To learn more or participate, Fast recommends family caregivers contact (780) 492-2865, visit rapp.ualberta.ca, or mymatchwork.com. To do a survey to aid in the project, see caregiversalberta.mymatchwork.com.
Rick Lauber's books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide are resources for prospective, new, and current caregivers.