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Employers Are Unaware That Caregiver Employees Need Support

Why you need to speak up if you need assistance

(This article previously appeared on Aplaceformom.com.)

More than 15 percent of members of the American workforce are family caregivers and these employees need extra support to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities. The MetLife Study of Caregiving reports that caregivers who leave work lose an average of $304,000 in benefits and wages over their lifetime.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, caregivers who don’t receive support from employers experience a negative impact on their careers. In fact:

  • 66 percent of caregiver employees have gone into work late, left early or taken time off during the day to deal with caregiving issues
  • 20 percent of caregivers were forced to take a leave of absence from work
  • 10 percent of caregiver employees quit or take early retirement
  • 9 percent of caregivers reduce hours or take less demanding jobs
  • 5 percent of caregiver employees turn down a promotion

Lack of Employer Support Not Necessarily Due to Lack of Compassion

Nancy Rubin, head of human resources for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, found herself caring for her aging mother. She told Next Avenue that stepping into this new role opened her eyes to the plight that was befalling other employees.

Some employers would be willing to offer caregiving support services, if they were aware that there was a need. But many aren’t.

“I listen to the problems and issues of our employees all day, spending most of my time searching for solutions, and then I come home at night and do it all over again with my mom… Because our CEO helps care for his mother-in-law, he really understands and is empathetic to the challenges caregivers face,” she said.

Rubin is fortunate. Not all employers offer a supportive environment for caregivers.

This lack of support is not always due to a lack of compassion, however. According to human resources expert Zachary T. Abraham, principal of AlignHR, caregiving support services are not usually an add-on feature to Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) and in order to provide elder care support services, many human resource departments must choose to eliminate another service.

Caregiver Employees Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Some employers would be willing to offer caregiver support services, if they were aware that there was a need. But many aren’t.

In fact, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 50 percent of working caregivers are reluctant to tell their supervisor about their caregiver responsibilities.

This communication breakdown between employees and their employers is contributing to the lack of support in the workplace.

Some employers report caregivingresources and services are available for staff, but are underutilized because workers are afraid to admit they are a family caregiver. When employees don’t take advantage of these caregiving services, human resource departments feel there is no need to keep them.

Take Advantage of Your Workplace’s Culture of Care

When Rubin opened up about her situation to her boss and colleagues she found the support she needed, telling Next Avenue that it was like a heavy boulder was lifted off her shoulders.

“The culture of care at work really makes me feel that I don’t have to hide anything from my employer and colleagues, which in turn makes me more loyal, dedicated and present in my job,” she said.

Caregiver employees need to learn to ask for help from family, friends and employers in order to avoid caregiver burnout and the other negative consequences associated with caring for an elderly family member. If your employer offers a supportive culture, don’t be afraid to open up about your situation and ask if it can offer support. Even if there’s no formal program in place for caregivers, your employer may be understanding and able to help in other ways.

By Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler is a writer and editor dedicated to improving seniors' lives through education, activism, volunteerism and community programs.  View Kimberley's website or connect with her on Twitter @kimsfow and LinkedIn.@kimsfow

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