AgeWise Colorado (AWC) appears to have been something of a seer in embracing a mission to alleviate the challenges older Coloradans and their caregiving families face. By providing reliable information and trusted resources to help seniors thrive as they age in place, AWC is designed to meet critical needs of family caregivers, especially those who are themselves still employed, as they struggle with the twin challenges of working and caregiving at once. This phenomenon has caught attention on a national scale. 

In late spring of 2023 the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on this growing trend in America that sees more and more people who find themselves having to combine regular employment with the added “job” of caring for adult family members. In many cases, these employees may also have their own children to look after at the same time, making these workers part of what’s been called the “sandwich generation” as they simultaneously care for both older and younger family members.

One result is that these sandwiched persons are seeking more support services. As the WSJ recounted, some of the more fortunate are able to find such help through workplace programs. But others struggle to do so. This is where organizations like AWC are stepping in to fill the gaps.

How Coloradans and others are affected by caregiving duties

In Colorado and elsewhere, whether caregiving employees can or can’t find the support they need, the caregiving burdens impact them. The WSJ described the case of one employee, a company program coordinator named Jason, who struggled to focus on his work as he helped care for his mother with Alzheimer’s disease. Physical and emotional exhaustion weakened his job performance. About the same time, other employees had been asking about adding a new “employee resource group” that would focus on caregivers. Jason was in a position in which he could respond to this request, and he expanded an existing working-parent group in his company to cover all caregivers.

The WSJ went on to note that the basic concept of employee resource groups (ESGs) for various needs and audiences is not new, but such a group focused on caregivers in general is more recent and is something gaining increasing attention as demographics and workplace practices evolve. “Companies are recognizing that a significant swath of employees are now caregivers of some sort,” said the WSJ, “and they need a place to share experiences, get resources and advocate for changes in the workplace.” In some companies this may include allowing paid time off for caregiving outside of sick days and parental leave, and even covering the cost of in-home care aides. Especially in times of worker shortages and other staffing challenges, employers are recognizing how offering benefits like these can help recruit and retain employees.

Findings of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers

The WSJ report was not the first of its kind to look at the issue. A 2022 white paper published by the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCIC) found that one in five employees serves as an unpaid caregiver for a family member who is aging, ill or disabled. These employees provide an average of 20 unpaid caregiving hours per week and miss an average of 3.2 days a month to provide care. Some surveys have found this equates to devoting almost $20,000 annually to unpaid caregiving time, with a nearly equal amount spent on out-of-pocket caregiving expenses. Just over half work in hourly positions, with about 40% in salaried jobs. These caregiving employees are also at greater risk of quitting. According to the Institute’s research, close to one-third of caregiver employees have voluntarily left a job because of their caregiving responsibilities. The RCIC also estimated the average annualized at-work lost productivity cost due to caregiving was just over $5,000 (assuming an hourly wage of $25.)

A concurrent problem the RCIC sees is that programs and policies that are currently available to caregiving employees are inadequate. The Institute offered the following examples:

• The Family and Medical Leave Act of 2013, the predominant piece of legislation to address time off from work for personal reasons, excludes large segments of the working population, contains gaps that limit coverage for certain caregivers and types of caregiving, and is not economically feasible for workers who feel they can’t take unpaid leave. Benefit use among caregivers is also suboptimal due partly to the stigma of requesting leave for personal reasons.
• Paid leave policies, when available, favor certain groups of workers (full-time, salaried) and most policies are generic and not designed for patterns of caregiving. Human resources department surveys suggest that paid leave policies have not changed substantially for over a decade and that barriers to approving leaves, such as lack of supervisor training, persist.

• Flexible work arrangements are relatively uncommon and have not changed much for two decades. The most common flex arrangement for caregiving employees has been allowing them to take time off during the workday without losing pay.
• Employee benefits offerings, such as dependent care savings accounts, have not been adapted to fit with non-parental needs or preferences, and most employees remain unaware of how to take advantage of benefits they may have to protect themselves once they become caregivers. Literacy on issues related to long-term and Medicare coverage are not addressed as a routine part of employee education.
• Private-sector solutions such as caregiver concierge services and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are becoming more available, but there is inadequate evidence on their utilization, effectiveness and cost.

(On this point, the WSJ noted that one hurdle for employee-resource groups is that some employees don’t join because they don’t see themselves as caregivers. To them, taking care of family members seems like an obvious obligation and part of life, rather than a special role that merits benefits or advocacy.)

The RCIC concluded, “As the country continues to grapple with the Great Resignation and employers race to fill vacancies, caregiving represents both a threat and an opportunity.” And “Addressing caregiving is a business imperative and relevant to business leaders.” The RCIC is launching a new employer initiative that seeks to partner with employers to pilot new and innovative solutions to keep caregiver employees attached to the labor market for the long term.  

Where Colorado caregivers can turn to for help

Apart from all the discussion of whether and how businesses are addressing the needs of employee caregivers, the fact is that many businesses do not have the operational infrastructure, flexibility, or financial wherewithal to offer what their employees need. Plus, surveys have shown that as many as 50% of employees with caregiving responsibilities say their employers are unaware of the challenges these burdens impose. This underscores the value of having dedicated nonprofit organizations like AgeWise Colorado, which can serve to fill the gap with support for employee caregivers in ways these latter types of business are unable to. Our simple message for Colorado caregivers: Help is available for you.

AWC continues to pursue its mission to alleviate the challenges older Coloradans and their families face by providing reliable information and trusted resources to help seniors thrive as they age in place. We do this through well researched articles, educational webinars featuring professionals in various fields of aging-related services, topical booklets, and timely updates on news items affecting Colorado’s seniors. The range of topics is broad, including health matters, legislative issues, financial and legal concerns, home modifications, estate and end-of-life planning, technology, Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid, transportation, governmental assistance programs, and more. See the range of topics and types of services we address on our AWC homepage at

AWC also offers easy connections to relevant service providers, who go through a stringent vetting process to ensure they are professional and reputable, they do what they say they do, and they have high standards in business practice. You can see the complete list of these providers in our Provider Directory at Once an organization becomes a Participating Provider, we do an annual check-up to ensure they continue to meet our rigorous standards.

AgeWise Colorado is Focused on Coloradans and their Families

At AWC we do all this at no cost to you. We are an all-volunteer organization and a 501(c)3 nonprofit. We rely not on paid subscriptions or user fees but rather on private individual donations, contributions from our Participating Providers, foundation grants, and sponsorships and corporate giving. (We of course welcome any individual support; no donation is too small.)

The stimulus for founding AWC was twofold: One, we know older adults consistently and strongly favor living in place as long as possible. And two, Colorado is the state with the second fastest population growth in residents age 65 and older. This is a preference and a trend we are sure will continue. We want to help older adults age in place and help their family caregivers facilitate that. We aim to minimize the many stressors that come from not knowing where to turn to get the help you need, when you need it.  

As one person who has benefited from AgeWise Colorado put it: “I wish I had known about AgeWise Colorado much sooner—it would have saved me and my dad and HUGE amount of time in finding the help we needed for Mom. Instead, it took nearly 9 months to find the help we needed when we could have found it in minutes on AgeWise Colorado.”

So, fellow Coloradans, if you face challenges in combining work with caregiving, know that you are part of a national phenomenon that is getting noticed. But more importantly, know that your circumstances are being noticed right here in the Centennial State, and you are not alone in dealing with them. Because AgeWise Colorado is here and ready to help.