2015 National Survey on Balancing Work, Family and Caregiving

Combining work, family and caregiving is a resource-intensive responsibility that can lead to physical and mental health problems, negative work-related outcomes, economic impacts and social and family life consequences. Unfortunately, we currently know little about how to best support employees who are also engaged in caring for an elderly relative.

Research on the experiences of those combining the competing needs of paid work, childcare and eldercare is rare.  Particularly problematic is the absence of information on the specific challenges facing employees who balance work and caring for a family member with dementia.

The objective of the National Survey on Balancing Work, Family and Caregiving is to raise the awareness of these challenges and by that, make the business case for change. The research should also give policy makers the information needed to develop and introduce needed changes to support caregivers within the community.

To participate in the survey as an individual, click here.

If you are an organization who is considering partnering with us to promote the survey to potential participants,  click here to learn more.

To find out more about this important survey, please refer to the questions below.

About this Survey

What do we mean by the term caregiver?

We use the term caregiver to refer to individuals who provide ongoing care and assistance, without pay, to family members in need of support due to physical, cognitive, or mental problems related to aging.

What do we know about the number of caregivers in Canada?

The number of Canadians engaged in caregiving is substantial and growing

“…it is not a matter of “if you become a caregiver, but when.”

Canadian Caregiver Coalition (2001)

In the new millennium dependent care is not just a question of care for children.  Demographic, social, economic, and policy changes have made family care of older relatives an issue of extreme importance to policy makers, families, researchers and employers.    The increased interest in eldercare as a ‘work and family’’ issue can largely be attributed to its position at the nexus of a number of important socio-demographic trends that have increased the number of elderly dependents requiring care but decreased the number of potential caregivers. The tendency to postpone childbearing until after age 30 will also lead to an increase in multi-generational families and thus the number of employees with children at home who also provide eldercare.

Not only will the need to provide care likely swell over time (more older people), but the burden of providing such care is also likely to increase as a smaller cohort of family caregivers will need to provide increasingly more complex types of care to seniors with chronic illness and dementia.

What do we know about the impact of caregiving on individuals, employers and the wider society in Canada?

Caregiving is linked to higher levels of physical, mental, emotional, and economic strain.

Family caregiving is a resource-intensive responsibility as the caregiver’s time, energy and financial resources are diverted from their normal activities to caring for their loved one. Caregiving affects multiple stakeholders. It affects those requiring care, their informal caregivers and other family members, friends, neighbors, service providers, those who develop policies for seniors’ benefits and services, employers and society. Caregivers can experience physical and mental health problems, negative work-related outcomes, economic impacts, social and family life consequences and changes in living arrangements. For employers, eldercare can impact the organization’s bottom line due to direct (health benefits, absenteeism) and indirect (lost productivity) costs. The total estimated annual cost to employers in the U.S. is $2,110 per caregiving employee on average. Finally, societal impacts are apparent. If it were not for family caregivers, the cost of eldercare would become a burden to the public health care system.

Evidence indicates that caregiving is especially taxing on caregivers who are also engaged in paid employment as such individuals need to balance multiple roles and responsibilities – a balancing act that may result in higher levels of physical, mental, emotional, and economic strain.  The above trends represent a “perfect storm” for employers seeking to recruit, retain and promote employees now and in the future.

Who is funding this study?

In September, 2014 the Canadian government announced the launch of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) – a collaborative research program (300+ researchers across Canada) focused on tackling the challenge of dementia and other neurodegenerative illnesses.   Our team of CCNA researchers has been tasked with the design and administration of a nation-wide survey of employed caregivers.  The National Survey on Balancing Work, Family and Caregiving is funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR).

Tell me more about the objectives of the study.

The overall objective of the study is to increase awareness at both the public policy and employer level of the challenges faced by those seeking to combine work, caregiving and perhaps childcare and make the business case for change. More specifically, we seek to:

  • Increase our understanding of the issues and challenges facing employed caregivers, in Canada.
  • Identify factors which enhance or diminish the ability of employed caregivers to provide care and support for family members and cope with the challenges they face balancing their work and caregiving demands.
  • Quantify the impact caregiving has on employees who provide care as well as the social institutions that support them (i.e. Canada’s health care system) and the economic institutions that employee them.
  • Increase our understanding of how caregiving impacts a number of key labour market outcomes (i.e. productivity, retirement decisions and whether or not an employee is willing to seek promotion).
  • Identify the extent to which each of these issues is affected by the type of care needed by the care recipient (i.e. caring for someone with dementia versus other types of caregiving), life cycle stage and gender.

Has this study been reviewed and approved by an ethics board?

The study has been reviewed and cleared by the Carleton University Research Ethics Board. For further information call 613-520-2517 or email ethics@carleton.ca

Are the responses anonymous?

Submitted responses to the survey questions are anonymous, and will be kept in confidence by the researchers. Only summary results will be provided to CIHR (i.e. to the Canadian Institute of Health Research – the funder). Read the answer to the next question to find out what happens if you stop the survey part way through.

How long will it take to complete the survey?

The survey includes six sections and will take approximately 45-60 minutes of your time. You can take a break from the survey at any time and restart at the point you left off, as long as you return to the survey within 2 weeks of starting. You may also leave individual questions blank for whatever reason. You have the right to end your participation in the survey at any time, for any reason, up until you hit the ‘submit’ button. You can withdraw by simply exiting the survey. Any unfinished surveys that are not completed within 2 weeks will be destroyed.

Who are we targeting for inclusion in the sample?

We use the term caregiver to refer to individuals who provide ongoing care and assistance, without pay, to family members in need of support due to physical, cognitive, or mental problems related to aging. This definition is consistent with that used by Statistics Canada.  We are not restricting participation to caregivers of people with dementia as we want to explore the impact type of care needed by care recipient has on our objectives.

We do require that the caregiver is employed. If applicable, we would prefer partners to also complete the survey. While we do not require that the caregiver be married/living with a significant other, when this is the cases we would, if possible, like to have both partners fill out the survey.  This preference is based on our belief that caregiving is a family responsibility and that by collecting data from only one partner we are underestimating the impact caregiving has on Canadian society and the Canadian labour market.

We would like caregivers in all areas of Canada to participate in this survey. We are particularly interested in getting a good sample of caregivers who live in smaller sized Canadian communities.

How will this survey help policy makers?

Our review of the literature determined that very little is known about employed caregivers.  While the 2012 General Social Survey  focused on this issue, the type of data that they collected was limited and insufficient to answer many of the questions noted above. The data from our survey will give Canadians a much more comprehensive picture of the challenges faced by employed caregivers.  It will also facilitate the identification of key factors which increase the risk that an employed caregiver will experience physical or mental health problem or detach themselves from the labour market. Finally, the survey will catalog effective ways to cope with the various challenges faced by employed caregivers.  Such information is critical to the development of sound public policy.

How will this survey help caregivers?

We plan to use the findings from this survey to increase public awareness of work-caregiving conflict as an issue that must be addressed if Canada is to remain globally competitive and caregivers are to remain healthy in the new millennium.  In the 1960s and 1970`s research raised public awareness of challenges associated with the issue of work-life conflict. Research is now needed to extend our definition of balance to also include those with caregiving as “eldercare is the new childcare.”

How will this survey help employers?

The data collected from this survey will benefit employers in a number of ways. First, data from this study should help employers design and implement appropriate policies to support their employers with caregiving responsibilities – as the demands of caregiving are different in many ways from the demands that come along with being a parent.  Attention to the caregiving issues should also help the bottom line (i.e. reduce absenteeism and the costs associated with higher EAP use) and help them better manage strategic HR issues such as retention and succession planning.

Who can I ask if I have other questions?

If you have any other questions about the study please contact:

Linda Duxbury, PhD
Professor, Sprott School of Business
Carleton University, Ottawa

Maggie Stevenson, PhD
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Sprott School of Business
Carleton University, Ottawa

Joel Sadavoy MD, FRCP
Founder Geriatric Psychiatry
Professor of Psychiatry
Toronto University

How will you be communicating the results?

A report summarizing key findings from this study will be available on this website in early 2016.

Information for Organizations

How will this study help your organization?

It is our hope that your organization is willing to become our partner in this research initiative.  This should increase the profile of the organization nationally, especially when it comes to championing research in this area.  The data from this study will also help your organization become a more effective advocate for an important group of Canadians – employees who are caring for family members with dementia.   We are also willing to work with your organization in terms of educating Canadians and their volunteers on issues of importance to employed Caregivers, perhaps by sharing reports from this study on your website and by doing webinars on this topic. Finally, those volunteers who work with us on this project will improve their understanding of and ability to conduct high quality research.

What are the researchers asking of your organization?

We need help identifying employees who are caring for a family member with dementia and employees who are engaged in caregiving more generally across Canada.  We are open to discussing how this could be done.  Suggestions include:

  • Asking people in each of your office(s) to identify an agreed upon number of employed caregivers in their area. We will supply the necessary information for these groups to pass on to such employed caregivers.
  • Putting information on the study on your website along with information on how to participate. A copy of the survey will be provided for your information. This includes full details of the research project including how long the survey takes to complete and suggestions as to where participants can get help if they need it.
  • Asking people in the field with whom you have contact to publicize the study within their network of caregivers and health care practitioners and encourage people to participate.
  • Speaking with practitioners who are helping those with dementia and asking them if they were interested in helping us get a sample.

Who can we contact to find out further information?

Linda Duxbury, PhD
Professor, Sprott School of Business
Carleton University, Ottawa

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