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Working, caregiving – and menopause too? Trying times

The effects of the menopause on women in their middle-ish years is finally being recognised as an important issue that needs to be addressed. At last policy makers and employers are beginning to understand the challenge for many.

Some effects are well-known – hot flushes, mood swings and energy fluctuations are all talked about. But there are actually at least 34 different symptoms known to be caused by the perimenopause and menopause.

Caregiving and menopause

For caregivers, the menopause can often mean more to deal with on top of the stress of caring. In some cases the symptoms are similar, and in others it’s just more to manage.

Caregivers may already be familiar with fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, muscle tension and more.

Caring and the menopause can create similar symptoms, such as greater stress, insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety and depression, to name the most common.

Caregivers who are already experiencing these symptoms may find them heightened during the menopause. They may find that fluctuating hormones and all that goes with it will increase their feelings irritability, confusion, depression and fatigue when the menopause meets challenges of caring for a loved one.

Working, caregiving and menopause

The situation is further complicated for those who are already trying to balance caregiving and working. Adding the menopause into the mix can make life even more stressful. According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, three-in-five of those experiencing symptoms while at work say it has a negative impact on their performance.

Fortunately, some employers are waking up to the needs of menopausal employees. Support from managers and colleagues at work – in place of criticism – can help people manage their symptoms more successfully. Enlightened employers are taking steps to provide education in the workplace on the topic.

However, less than a year ago a study found that three-quarters of businesses still had no menopause policy. Without formal policies they could face losing experienced employees. We are already seeing an exodus from the workplace of the over 50s, even if the rising cost of living is driving some to return to the workplace.

Employers need to further note that there has been a rise in employment tribunals citing menopausal transitions. The numbers are still low but show that there is still lack of awareness.

It is argued that employers should be aware that while menopause is not considered a disability, its physical and mental symptoms may fall under the Equality Act 2010 definition of disability if they have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Employers are getting there

There certainly are organisations in the caring space that are preparing to support staff better through menopause. The National Care Group has launched a dedicated menopause hub to support colleagues, for example, while the Bluebird Care franchise had pledged to create a ‘menopause’. The NHS has a publicly documented strategy for supporting staff through the menopause.

They are not alone, and it is to be hoped that more employers across multiple industries will pick up on what they need to do to create a menopause policy.

Coping with symptoms

Meanwhile, there are medical and non-medical approaches available to relieving some of the symptoms of menopause. Medical can include HRT, while non-medical offerings can include exercise such as yoga or other self-help. Finding what works is often an individual journey, but at least menopause is now being talked about as a perfectly normal occurrence, rather than something to hide.

Image licensed under the Unsplash+ License

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