“Caring for an aging loved one is one of the hardest and most demanding jobs someone can take on,” says Jisella Dolan, Chief Advocacy Officer at Home Instead, Inc., “As our aging population rapidly increases, employers need to be aware of the growing number of family caregivers in their workforce and implement policies to support them.”
An estimated 34 million Americans provide unpaid care to adults 50 or older every year, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, and that number is growing.
Now more than ever, working caregivers are devoting an extensive number of unpaid hours outside of the office to care for parents. In fact, over the last two years, those providing more than 30 hours of care per week increased by 10%, with working caregivers spending an average of 18.4 hours per week providing care – in addition to their full- or part-time positions. These unpaid caregivers are feeling the weight of balancing their personal and professional lives, with nearly 60% feeling they must choose between being a good employee and being a good daughter or son.
And many employers are struggling to adequately address the needs of working caregivers. According to the survey, only 29% of employees are satisfied with their family leave policy, and 46% of those employees have been left with no choice but to use personal vacation time to meet caregiver responsibilities.
Working caregivers also feel they are met with less understanding than working parents when it comes to requesting time off. Two-thirds of employees caring for an aging parent feel their workplace is more accommodating toward those caring for a sick child than a sick parent. As a result, caregivers are forced to make hard decisions like turning down promotions, leaving work early, skipping out on opportunities for professional development, and even leaving positions they enjoy for something more flexible.
All of this additional pressure and stress can have adverse effects on mental and physical health. In fact, more than half of caregivers have expressed feelings of depression and found it difficult to find time to care for themselves. While the number of working caregivers experiencing these feelings is staggering –they are not alone.
“Thankfully, there’s hope ahead for the working caregiver,” Dolan added. “ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time) is a coalition formed by corporate leadership that seeks to support the needs of family caregivers within their workplaces. Home Instead, Inc. is proud to be a member of ReACT, supporting its own employees alongside 40 other employers.”
While many employers are leading the effort toward better caregiver support in the workplace, there is still much to be done for the more than 34 million unpaid family caregivers providing support for aging loved ones in the United States. Family caregivers and employers can view resources and tips at caregiverstress.com. Or, contact your local Home Instead office for additional resources and to learn how a professional CAREGiverSM may be able to assist.