As reported by news sources including Financial Advisor Magazine and U.S. News & World Report, the burdens faced by people who try to balance work with caring for an older adult continue to grow. The latest reports point to research done by AARP and S&P Global, which was summarized in a 2024 study titled “Working While Caregiving: It’s Complicated.” This was based on a survey conducted in late 2023 that polled 1,200 employees of large companies (those with more than 1,000 employees) who provided more than six hours of care each week to another adult.

Among the key findings are the following:

Two-thirds of family caregivers have difficulty balancing their jobs with caregiving duties. Half said they were having to make changes to their work schedules to accommodate their care responsibilities. This might include going into work early or staying late.

About one-third said they had to take a leave of absence, 27% had reduced their hours or moved to part-time work, and 16% had turned down a promotion.

Roughly 85% said caregiving had a moderate or high impact on their stress levels. The unpredictable nature of caring for an older adult was cited as among the biggest stressors that caregivers face.

Among those planning to leave their employer in the next year, 34% said their caregiving responsibilities were the primary reason while another 41% said it was one of the reasons. 13% had already changed employers in order to meet caregiving obligations. 

The impact of inflation was different depending on how much caregiving was being done. Among working caregivers providing more than 21 hours of care a week, 37% were experiencing significantly greater difficulty. For those providing fewer than 10 hours of care, 25% said inflation was having such an impact. The report reiterated data from an AARP study on out-of-pocket costs incurred by caregivers, which noted that, on average, caregivers spend more than $7,200 a year on caregiving and that the time period devoted to caregiving tended to last an average 4.5 years.

Employer Support Seen to Be Variable Based on Personal Circumstances

The study reported that 80% of respondents see companies as more understanding of child care issues than adult caregiving responsibilities. This was especially noticeable among respondents who had experienced both types of caregiving responsibilities.

Close to half of respondents said they felt penalized if the adult they cared for was a sibling, and another 45% said they felt penalized if the adult was a spouse or partner. But they felt less likely to be penalized at work for taking care of an adult who was a parent, parent-in-law, or stepparent.

Also, remote workers were more likely to feel penalized or discriminated against at work because of caregiving responsibilities compared to in-office or hybrid workers – 49% versus a combined average of 29%. The study authors said this might reflect employer challenges in assessing remote employees’ work-life needs.

On a positive note, the survey found that flexibility afforded to caregivers by employers has improved over time. The report said 45% of employers gave employees access to a flexible work schedule in 2023, compared to only 32% who had done so in 2020. (Recall the study was focused on large employers.)

AARP and S&P Global Weigh in on Caregiving Issue

An analysis of the study by AARP and S&P Global said the findings “underscore the importance for employers to implement policies and benefits that are friendly and supportive of adult caregiving to retain this critical segment of employees in the workforce.” They pointed out this is crucial because the nation’s population of adults age 65 and older is projected to surpass the population of children by 2030.

AARP has previously found that of the more than 48 million family caregivers nationwide, 61% are working while juggling caregiving responsibilities, including assisting with daily living activities, medical or nursing tasks, coordinating services, transportation, shopping and advocating for their loved ones. The AARP data also found that most family caregivers provide at least 20 hours of care each week. This results in more than $600 billion in unpaid care being provided to loved ones.

Susan Reinhard, AARP senior vice president and director of the Public Policy Institute, observed that family caregivers need greater support from employers. “As our population ages,” she was quoted as saying, “it’s critical that employers support family caregivers in the workforce with the policies, such as paid leave, that can ease their everyday burdens.” 

Report Calls for More Caregiver Support by Employers

In a press release, Alexandra Dimitrijevic, co-chair of S&P Global Research Council, said, “Despite the progress observed since 2020, the latest data shows the majority of employees with adult caregiving responsibilities continue to face barriers at balancing work and caregiving obligations and need greater support from employers through enhanced benefits and policies to stay engaged in the workforce. Employers can help by paying forward-looking attention to employee needs and the demographics shift of the workforce in the coming years.” 

To this end, the report identified what it calls industry best practices that companies can take to support caregivers, including: 

◾ Offer and support flexible schedules and leave policies and flexible work locations (hybrid/remote). 

◾ Promote access to support groups, career coaching and financial advising resources. (These are sometimes called Employee Resource Groups.)

◾ Host free sessions to highlight how caregiving employees can optimize employer benefits and policies. Employees often lack awareness of these benefits. Also ask senior leaders to share their stories of how they have used the caregiver-supportive benefits.

◾ Train managers and ensure they are aware of caregiver-supportive benefits. Have them emphasize that employees can use such benefits without incurring risk to their careers.

Federal Steps May Bring Help to Caregivers

During a media briefing about the “Working While Caregiving” study, Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Americans are more and more feeling the pressures of caring for their older relatives. “It’s becoming a real crisis for families in America,” he said.

Becerra noted steps taken at the federal level, such as new nursing home staffing standards and rules to improve access to Medicaid, are designed to improve the quality of care and strengthen support for caregivers. He also referred to a 2023 executive order signed by the president “which included 50 directives to federal agencies to increase access to affordable, high-quality care, and provide support to rising child care and family caregiving costs.”

A bill reintroduced in early 2024 by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senate and House members could provide help in the form of a federal tax credit for eligible working family caregivers. The Credit for Caring Act, if passed, would provide financial support for individual caregivers by providing up to a $5,000 nonrefundable federal tax credit for eligible working family caregivers, and that would cover 30% of qualified expenses they incur above $2,000.

AARP said it has been working with legislators for eight years on previous versions of the bill, and the time is finally right for it to become law to bring relief to many caregivers. The bill has made little progress in Congress thus far but has gained additional co-sponsors, which now total 39 in both chambers.

You can read more about this topic and impacts on Coloradans in our AgeWise Colorado article at https://agewisecolorado.org/blog/employed-coloradans-who-also-serve-as-family-caregivers-are-part-of-a-national-phenomenon/.