There are many unpaid family caregivers in the workforce who are juggling a full-time job and caregiving.
According to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, up to 22% of the US labor force is made up of family caregivers and most caregiver employees are full-time.
Finding a work-life balance can be extremely difficult and working caregivers often feel stretched thin or like their work is never ending. According to the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), 70% of working caregivers report having at least one mental health symptom, including suicidal thoughts.
It’s an issue that is getting harder for employers to ignore as the Baby Boomer generation ages out of the workforce. NYSOFA reports “the percentage of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years.”
Valarie Drown, project director for the Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Support Initiative (ADCSI), is a working family caregiver. Not only is she the leader of this organization, but Valarie is also a caregiver to her mother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, and to her son who is diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, Tourette’s, OCD, Anxiety and Mood Disorder NOS.
She says while she is fortunate to have a flexible employer, she can’t imagine how difficult it is for other working caregivers who cannot drop everything and leave the office when their care receiver needs them.
“I’m always saving up my PTO for a caregiving emergency that may require me to be out of the office for days or even weeks,” Valarie explained.
Valarie is advocating for employers to better understand the importance of supporting the working caregivers on their staff and helping them find balance. This support can lead to increased retention of quality employees, better work productivity and boosted morale.
“We want to be productive members of society. I love my job. I also love my family. And I want to care for both. To feel fulfilled on both ends, we need that scheduling flexibility and support,” Drown said.
Here are five tips for employers from NYSOFA to help make a difference for working caregivers who are struggling:
- Offer a flexible daily schedule to allow for caregivers to work around their care receiver’s needs.
- Provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to help caregivers resolve personal problems.
- Train management on work-life issues.
- Display caregiver information and resources in common areas with other office policies.
- Partner with other businesses and organizations in your area to share ideas and resources. ADCSI welcomes such partnerships.
All caregivers need a break at some point. It is critical to seek relief for your own health and wellbeing so that you can continue providing the best care for your care receiver. ADCSI provides free respite care for caregivers in Clinton, Essex, Hamilton, Franklin, Warren and Washington Counties. For more information, call 1-800-388-0199.