HHL Caregiving Awareness
Campaign to Raise Awareness About the Growing Caregiving Community and Their Unmet NeedFollow this author
by Michael O’Neill, Senior Editor, HHL
For many who take on the role of caregiving at home, it can quickly become a full-time job – on top of the one they already have. Almost half (46%) of caregivers work full-time outside the home, and it’s closer to two-thirds if you add in part-time workers and those looking for employment. (See Care for the Family Caregiver:A Place to Start (March 2010 Edition, prepared by National Alliance for Caregiving and EmblemHealth).
In addition to time, caregivers can also expect to invest a lot of their own money – or earnings potential – into caregiving. The same report cites a 2007 study that found the following:
“Half of caregivers (caring for someone 50 years or older) spent more than 10% of their income on caregiving.”
“Thirty-four percent of caregivers used some of their savings to cover caregiving costs.”
“One in five report taking a leave of absence; 6% quit working altogether; and 4% take early retirement” – even though – “maintaining employment is likely essential to your own financial future, and may also be a source of satisfaction.”
A more recent study by Ceridian, a global human capital management technology company, found that caregiving was negatively impacting productivity in the workplace, disrupting employee engagement and negating any semblance of work life balance (Ceridian 2015 Caregiver Research study: Double Duty: The Caregiving Crisis In The Workplace).
Multiply this impact by the 22 million plus working Americans who find themselves in caregiver roles, and it becomes evident that U.S. businesses must do more to support them – or suffer the consequences to their own bottom line. In fact, “it is estimated that caregiving costs the U.S. economy $38.2 billion in lost productivity,” according to the study.
The “fatigue, stress and sadness” that a majority of caregivers say they feel can’t help but spill over into the workplace. And that’s when they’re not taking time off from work to tend to their caregiving duties, which averaged just a few hours short of two full workweeks over the past year.
What can employers do to help employees who find themselves pulling double duty in a caregiver situation? One suggestion: “Providing access to an employee assistance program that offers counseling resources, wellness self-assessments and information on resources available within the caregiver’s community is just one way that employers can accommodate the needs of their employees and their families,” says Christine Adoni, vice president, Ceridian LifeWorks.
Another study, Understanding the Impact of Family Caregiving on Work (by Lynn Feinberg and Rita Choula of the AARP Public Policy Institute), focuses on workers taking care of elderly parents, family or friends, who are not only struggling with these same issues, but doing so in greater numbers as the baby boomer generation continues its march into senior citizenship.
Fortunately, American companies have recognized this particular need for quite some time and began adding eldercare benefits and resources as long as 35 years ago. According to the AARP report, early eldercare programs were modeled after those for childcare, and like those programs, there are documented results that show benefits to both employers and employees; for example, “[they] improve worker retention, productivity, stress levels, and health among workers.”
The report cites some examples of workplace programs that have been successfully implemented by employers – including “referral to caregiver resources in the community, on-site support groups for working caregivers, and discounted backup home care for emergency needs” – and concludes that “employers have found eldercare benefits [like these] to be a competitive advantage both in new employee recruitment and retention of existing employees.”
Keiro, a not-for-profit organization supporting caregivers with problem-solving for some of their toughest challenges, references the AARP report in Employed Caregivers: The Impact of Caregiving on People Who Work. It bemoans the fact that policies and programs in the workplace are not keeping up with the changes on the home front requiring more workers to become simultaneous caregivers. Despite the positive results and benefits found so far when such caregiving related programs are implemented – not just for the working caregiver but for the business as well when employee productivity and other factors are not put at risk – a mere 12% of us have employer paid family leave benefits, leaving the majority of U.S. workers vulnerable to added emotional, health and financial strain when the inevitable happens.
Are you a family caregiver with a story to tell? Share your experience with other HHL readers.