Long Distance Caregivers Struggle to Juggle Work, Help

July 29, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - To help take care of an older family member living far away from them, the caregivers miss more than two days of work a month on average, according to a new study.

The study, released by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving and conducted by Zogby International, found that the long-distance caregivers are absent for an average of 20 hours per month.

According to the survey, the caregivers live an average of 450 miles and 7.2 hours away from the person for whom they provide care. They spend an average of $392 per month, which includes $193 on out-of-pocket expenses for caregiving and $199 per month on travel. More than half (51%) of those surveyed report visiting at least a few times a month and almost half report they spend the equivalent of one full workday per week tending to their caregiving responsibilities.

More than four in ten (44%) say they’ve shuffled their work schedules to accommodate their caregiving duties. More than a third (36%) report missing days of work. Women are more likely than men to report missing work, but just as many men as women report rearranging their schedules to provide care, the survey found.

Despite living more than an hour away from a care recipient, nearly a quarter (23%) of the caregivers are the primary source of assistance for an elderly friend or relative. More than half report that they provide care as a helper to a sibling or other caregiver while the sibling living closest to the parent is most often identified as the primary caregiver.

“These caregivers not only overcome the distance to care for their loved ones but also juggle work and caregiving responsibilities,” said Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “Approximately 80% are employed and almost half are changing their hours at work; a third miss days of work and 12% take leaves of absence from their jobs. Employers should consider the impact that long-distance caregiving has on workplace productivity and identify solutions to assist caregivers so they can do their jobs, tend to their own families and provide care for their parents.”

Other study findings include the following:

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents help their loved one with instrumental activities of daily living like help around the home, transportation, shopping and meal preparation.
  • Women were more likely than men to report switching from full to part-time work.
  • Only 99 of the 1,130 people surveyed, less than 10%, reported paying for services for their care recipient.
  • Paid helpers were most important to those long-distance caregivers who reported being the sole caregiver.

The study, Miles Away: The MetLife Study of Long-distance Caregiving, was conducted during the past year, took place online. It included responses from 1,130 people met the criteria for a long-distance caregiver – helping someone 55 or older during the past year who had “chronic physical, cognitive or mental health problems” and who lived an hour or more away.