The sun is just about to rise. It promises to be a beautifully sunny winter day. But for Julie, a single mother of two, who shares her home with her ailing and elderly parents, there is little time to appreciate the day.
What preoccupies her mind most days, is her long to-do list that consumes on average, 18 hours of her day. And nothing on this list relates to her full-time job, as a Project Manager. Because Julie’s day usually begins at 5am and by 6am, she’s already sorted the laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, checked her emails and paid bills, dealt with any correspondence, made the school lunches and started breakfast before everyone wakes up.
As she is getting dressed for work, she reflects on yesterday’s phone conversation with her mother’s doctor. He suspects her erratic behaviour may be early signs of Alzheimer’s and he would like to conduct more tests at the end of the week. The same day she needs to take her terminally ill father into hospital for his radiation treatment. He is dying of lung cancer. Being a single child and without much help from extended family, she doesn’t know who to prioritise. In either case, she is not looking forward to asking her manager for additional time off work. She’s already missed a few deadlines, used up all her personal leave and she knows that this is a critical time for the project she is managing.
She’s doesn’t know how much longer she can cope.
On the other side of Sydney, Michael, Julie’s Project Director, is waking up at 7am to the same sunny morning. By 8am, he’s showered, dressed for work, and enjoying his morning coffee and he checks his email before leaving for work.
He’s disappointed to see that the status reports he asked from Julie three days ago still hasn’t arrived in his inbox. He knows that Julie has had some personal issues and has been taking time off lately. He’s tried to be sympathetic without prying into any private details, but her lack of focus at work is now impacting the project, and the team who have had to pick up the slack .
He has a steering committee review meeting tomorrow and really needs that report from Julie today.
Julie and Michael and both heading towards a difficult conversation.
If you were Julie, what would you do?
If you were Michael, how would you handle this situation?
Julie is one of 2.7 million people in Australia who struggle to get the help they need to care for ageing, disabled or terminally ill family members who wish to remain living independently at home. That’s nearly 1 in 10. Globally, in developed countries, the current estimate is 1 in 12.
By 2030, the ageing population, Australia is predicted to have % of people over the age of 65. And with this trend, the “burden of caregiving” will increasingly rest more on families who will continue to be stretched thin as they try and balance Work-Life-Care responsibilities.
We need to be having better conversations on how to support carers.
Because many of them also have a job. Just like Julie.
And if we don’t start adequately addressing this problem now, this care-giving crisis will have wide reaching impacts to families, our work and businesses as employees with care-giving responsibilities, will increasingly start to show signs of mental stress which can result in presenteeism, absenteeism, reduced productivity and at worst case, resignations.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer a matter of if, but when. Support is needed now more than ever.