Bill Novelli, a former CEO of AARP and a professor emeritus at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, has written a commentary for Fortune Magazine on the burdens of today’s family caregivers. He calls attention to how millennials and GenXers in particular are having to grapple more and more with being caregivers while also still working. He notes that even prior to the COVID pandemic, more than one in six full-time workers in the U.S. were caregivers, and that figure is only growing as the population ages.
As Novelli looks at the overall situation, he mentions a number of individual points, such as the following:
- Caregivers are more likely to report being stressed, to have worked while feeling unwell, and likely face financial hardship over medical expenses. They are especially stressed by work-life balance pressures. The persistence of traditional gender norms means women often carry the heaviest caregiving responsibilities.
- Two-thirds of caregivers do not feel seen and understood by their employer, and 70% don’t believe their employer has services to support them. This is according to Alex Drane, the CEO of ARCHANGELS, a company that supports caregivers. Among those who do know of available services, some 60% are satisfied with their jobs.
- Martine Ferland, CEO of HR consulting firm Mercer, says that by supporting caregivers, employers can help retain current employees — particularly women — and attract new talent. She says that nearly six in 10 caregivers report being less likely to change employers based on the health and well-being benefits they provide.
- The TIAA Institute (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America) issued a report that found many employed caregivers miss work (up to 12 hours per month), reduce their work hours, refuse promotions, or leave the workforce altogether to meet family responsibilities. Additionally, their uncompensated caregiving expenses average more than $7,000 a year.
- Caregivers encounter another challenge many other Americans face, which is having to deal with a healthcare system that is difficult to manage and increasingly expensive. As the demand for family caregiving grows, more complex health care is being delivered at home, even as the supply of available paid home-care aides decreases. Research shows that caregivers struggle with a lack of knowledge about the diseases and disorders they may be caring for.
- Caregiver emotions run a gamut. Some say they see caregiving as a privilege, and it’s a blessing to help family. Some say it’s too exhausting. Some feel resentment. Many say they need more support. Some say support groups, respite services, and even webinars are what help them get through.
Novelli writes that solutions in workplaces do exist, but often remain unused. Sometimes that is due to caregivers not openly identifying their stresses. He passes along these suggestions from professionals he has mentioned in his article as things employers can do to support workers and enhance job satisfaction and productivity:
- Alex Drane: Be sure to let caregivers know what the company already has in place. Many employees don’t realize how many resources they already have access to. Just helping employees know what is available has a real impact. One study showed that while 89% of surveyed employers offer some type of caregiving resources, 59% of workers were unaware of them and only 32% had taken advantage of them.
- Martine Ferland: Offer flexible working arrangements, such as flextime, alternative shifts, compressed workweeks, reduced schedules, and job sharing.
- Surya Kolluri of the TIAA Institute: Reframe retirement planning to incorporate longevity and the likelihood of having caregiving expenses. Incorporate the concept of “longevity literacy” and its role in retirement savings. This is especially important if caregiver expenses and/or disrupted work income significantly impact preparing financially for retirement.
Additional Suggestions Novelli offers for Caregivers:
- Assist employees with their emotional needs. For example, provide the means to establish support groups and navigation assistance, including meeting space and ways for group members to communicate and coordinate scheduling.
- If valuable employees do leave because of family responsibilities, consider helping them to return once their caregiving is completed. The Society for Human Resource Management calls these “returnships.”
AgeWise Colorado Fills Many Gaps for Working Caregivers
AgeWise Colorado offers many of the kinds of resources Novelli and the other professionals mentioned here discuss as being needed by caregivers. On our site you will find numerous articles and webinars that address the varied aspects of family caregiving — both practical and emotional — and how you can manage them. Equally important, we connect you with a wide array of agencies and organizations that can bring you the information, guidance, and practical assistance you need as you navigate caregiving for family members. This is all available at no cost.
Employers looking for ways to support their workers who double as family caregivers can encourage their employees to look into all that we make available on our AgeWise Colorado website. Visit https://agewisecolorado.org/ to see just how much help you can access and how to connect directly to the service providers in the community that will be of help to you.