Tag Archives: workforce

What employers can do to support family caregivers

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, I wanted to highlight a key area of support that is critical for family caregivers, yet many suffer in silence.

This AARP blog post is directed at employers and discusses how supporting their employees who are also family caregivers is not charity, but a smart business practice.

Not only is it a smart business practice, but it’s going to be essential over the coming years. As our population ages, more and more people will become family caregivers. 7 in 10 workers currently have some caregiving duties, according to AARP. One in four is a millennial and a growing number are even younger. Family caregiving is not an “older worker” issue but an issue that any employee can face.

One of the few bright spots in the pandemic was that in certain sectors of the workforce, strides were made in workplace and scheduling flexibility. Employees who are also family caregivers appreciated the difference that flexibility made in their quality of life. Now employers are using their fears of an economic downturn to try and force workers back into a rigid schedule and workplace locations. Some employees are rebelling, but many family caregivers have no choice because caregiving is expensive and not covered by insurance.

When family caregivers reach a breaking point, they end up leaving the workforce. That’s a loss for everyone. Employers who are concerned about having enough staffing can take steps to ensure that they are creating a support environment for family caregivers. It’s common sense that workers who have enough support to manage their family caregiving duties will also be more productive at work and more likely to remain with a company that offers such support. That makes it a win-win for all involved.

Here are some steps employers should consider to support family caregivers:

  • Offer a flexibile schedule
  • Offer remote work
  • Offer caregiver support programs as part of the employee health care package
  • Paid family leave
  • Making sure hiring policies don’t discriminate against older workers or those with caregiving duties

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Dementia’s toll on the workforce

I read this USA Today article about how family caregivers of dementia patients are having a negative impact on the workforce. It is very true and yet another consequence of Alzheimer’s, one that is often overlooked. According to the article, 1 in 7 Americans have been or are currently caregivers for family members. Almost 70 percent of those people had to modify their work schedule in some way. This is a big loss of productivity for companies, if you want to look at it from a cold, hard statistical perspective.

Of course, as any caregiver knows, caregiving goes beyond just the physical tasks. Caregivers often become depressed, anxious and suffer from exhaustion. This can lead to accidents on the job or poor working relations with co-workers.

While I was not a direct caregiver to my dad, I was for my mom for the last half of 2012. My mom didn’t have dementia, she had cancer, but her need for a family caregiver was just as necessary. And I did the only thing I felt like I could do in that situation, which was quit my job. It was not a decision I made lightly, but my mom’s recovery depended upon having a family advocate by her side for several months. I’m an only child, and Dad passed the year before.

Right now, I’m back home but I’m still only working part-time. I’m hesitant to apply for full-time work again because I fear my mom may need me again. Financially, part-time income will not be sustainable in the long-term.

There are no easy answers, but caregivers and their ill loved ones need better community support. While there are some family members who want to be full-time caregivers, I think many caregivers benefit from keeping to as normal as a routine as possible. Caregivers shouldn’t have to choose between providing loving care for their loved ones and being able to support themselves and their families.

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