A fitting article from Crisis Prevention, where they focus on training and consulting in behavior management and dementia care: Workplace Flexibility | CPI. This article is about a (thankfully) growing trend in workplaces allowing more flexibility for people who are caring for family members.
Why is this important?
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), caregivers not only contribute from their own personal expenses for care, but caregiving also affects the economy through the paid workforce (L. Feinberg, SC Reinhard, A Hourser, and R Choula, “Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update. The growing contributions and costs of family caregiving,” Washington, DC, AARP Public Policy Institute 2011):
- 58% of caregivers are currently employed either full-time or part-time, balancing work with their caregiving role
- 69% of caregivers report making work accommodations because of caregiving, including arriving late/leaving early, taking time off, cutting back on work hours, changing jobs, or stopping work entirely
- Caregivers who live with their loved one are most likely to adjust their paid employment or leave the workforce
- Not only may they lose foregone earnings and Social Security benefits, but they also can lose job security and career mobility, and employment benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings
What’s more, is that caregiving is associated with poorer health, higher rates of depression, and social isolation – all of which can lead to poorer health and chronic conditions for the caregivers as they age.
Both younger employees (age 18 to 39) and older employees (age 50+) providing care for an older relative were more likely to report fair or poor health in general, and they were significantly more likely to report depression, diabetes, hypertension, or pulmonary disease than noncaregivers of the same age.
More than half (52 percent) of family caregivers say that their caregiving responsibilities take them away from friends or family members.
A review of studies suggests that between 40 and 70% of family caregivers of older adults have clinically significant symptoms of depression, with 25 to 50% of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression.
Caregiver support is really needed if society wants to have the public health benefits of allowing people to age in place, to be cared for in their own homes rather than institutional care, and to reduce the physical and mental health problems associated with the stresses of caregiving.
In this Gerontologist’s opinion, caring for the caregivers is just as important as caring for the individuals with dementia.
Does Your Workplace Give You Time Off to Care?
More and more companies are offering flexibility for employees who care for ailing family members, reports the AARP blog. The 2014 National Study of Employers was released recently by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), revealing that 75% of surveyed employers allow time off for employees to provide eldercare without jeopardizing their jobs.
The benefits for employees are obvious: less stress about losing their positions; less anxiety about being able to advocate for loved ones during business hours. But what’s in it for employers? The organizational advantages are another benefit for employees as well: “[W]orkers with less stress, like those who feel valued and whose needs are met,” says the AARP, “tend to have fewer mental and physical problems. For a company, that translates into lower health care costs.”
The AARP emphasizes how this flexibility benefits society as well. According to one of its reports, there were seven potential family caregivers for every person over 80 in 2010. As family size dwindles and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias swells to a projected 13 to 16 million Americans by 2050 [PDF], the caregiver-to-care-receiver ratio is expected to shrink to 3 to 1. So in 36 years, there will be fewer caregivers, more older people (struggling especially with dementia), and more need for worker flexibility.
If you care for a loved one in need, does your organization help you balance work with family care? If not, what can management do to make things easier?