My friend Anna* recently drove more than two hours to the home of her husband’s elderly parents only to discover their situation had gone from precarious to dire. While her mother-in-law was hospitalized, her father-in-law’s ability to care for himself and take his medications had deteriorated.
As Anna and family waited with her father-in-law to get help in the emergency room, it was clear that the parents’ living situation had to change. Fortunately, the family was able to arrange for a move into an assisted living apartment quickly.
After dealing with her father-in-law’s immediate needs, touring the apartment and updating her mother-in-law, Anna drove back to the office to pick up notes and equipment so she could work remotely. That allowed her to stay productive while serving as a “caregiving bridge” for her father-in-law.
Within a few days, the new apartment was ready; her mother-in-law was home from the hospital; and Anna was able to stop working remotely and return to the office.
As Anna learned, workplace flexibility and support make all the difference between an engaged employee and one who is deeply distracted by the daily demands of caregiving.
One in Six in Your Workforce
A Gallup poll showed that one in six employees was caring for an elderly or disabled family member in 2011. That number is likely to rise along with the growing number of elderly Americans, thanks to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and medical advances.
An article in Gallup’s Business Journal online on caregiving’s impact on the economy noted that:
- Lost productivity among full-time workers with caregiving responsibilities costs employers more than $25 billion a year.
- Caregivers miss an average of 6.6 days of work per year due to their efforts to provide care.
- Caregiving touches all genders and generations in the workforce, with 20 percent of women and 16 percent of men having caregiving responsibilities. The age group of 45 to 64 has the highest share of caregivers among full-time workers at 22 percent.
What Employers Can Do to Provide Support for Caregivers
Many employers are exploring policies and benefits to help provide support for caregiver employees maintain productivity. The Alliance is offering a free event on Jan. 15, 2019 to help employers learn more about Wellness and Caregiving: Healthy Minds, Healthy Employees, Healthy Company. Highlights will include:
- A case study from Promega, Fitchburg, Wis., on the impact of offering support for caregivers by offering caregiving benefits.
- How to recognize caregiving’s impact in your workplace and then “meet caregivers where they are.”
- How to change a culture that gives many employees the perception that they need to hide their efforts to help elderly or disabled relatives.
- Self-care for caregivers.
Support for Caregivers – Making It Work
Preparing for The Alliance caregiving event opened my eyes to just how much caregiving impacts members of my workplace and my family. Two years ago, my sister worked with our parents to create a small addition to her home so our parents can continue to live on the farm they love in a safe space where help is nearby.
She’s dealt with the demands of offering support for our aging parents while working from home – interrupted conference calls, canceled events and trips to the doctor are just a few items on the list. Fortunately, her employer helped ease the transition with caregiving benefits that included a review of the home environment by a professional caregiver.
People with caregiving responsibilities, like my sister, find a way to make it all work. There’s no doubt it all works better when there’s flexibility and support in the caregiver’s workplace.
*Anna’s name has been changed to protect her family’s privacy.