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Managing a Paid Job and Family Caregiving Is a Growing Reality

Managing a paid job and family caregiving

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The AARP Public Policy Institute’s updated 2020 Caregiving in the U.S. report revealed an increase of more than 5 million employed family caregivers since 2015. This report takes a deeper look into the Caregiving in the US data at the nearly 30 million Americans who are caring for an ill friend or family member while also working at a paying job. It highlights the impacts and challenges of managing both responsibilities, and it identifies what’s changed since 2015.

Their Numbers

The majority (61 percent) of family caregivers caring for adult relatives or friends worked at a paying job at some point during their caregiving experience in 2019, making for an estimated 29.2 million employed caregivers of adults. Most (57 percent) expect to have some caregiving responsibility in the next five years. They were more likely to be female (58 percent) than male (42 percent).

The rate of employment is especially high for younger caregivers ages 18 to 49: nearly three in four (72 percent) report holding down a paying job while providing care for an ill adult or aging family member. More than one in ten (12 percent) was also a student, either full-time or part-time.

The great majority of employed caregivers of adults care for a relative (92 percent), typically a parent or parent-in-law (56 percent), spouse or partner (10 percent), grandparent or grandparent-in-law (nine percent), or adult child or sibling (5 percent each). Eight percent provide care to a friend or neighbor.

On average, they work the equivalent of a full-time job (35.7 hours a week) on top of their caregiving and family responsibilities. More than one in four (28 percent) provide 21 or more hours of unpaid care.

While about six in ten family caregivers across all race/ethnicity groups are employed, African- American caregivers are the most likely racial/ethnic group to be in the labor force (64 percent), followed by White (62 percent), Hispanic (60 percent) or Asian American (59 percent) family caregivers.

Other Findings

Nearly half (48 percent) report their relative or friend has two or more conditions impacting their health or functioning.  One in four (26 percent) is caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Thirty-one percent are holding down a paying job and providing care alone—with no help from anyone else (paid or unpaid).

Challenges

About one in three employed caregivers (who are not self-employed) say that their supervisor is unaware of their caregiving situation, another 13 percent don’t know. Fifty-eight percent say their employer offers paid sick days, up from 52 percent in 2015. About 56 percent report having flexible work hours, and about half (53 percent) have unpaid family leave. Nearly all workplace benefits, however, are more commonly reported by caregivers who are either salaried or working 30+ hours a week. 

Because providing care for an adult family member or friend with a serious illness or disability may mean taking either scheduled or unscheduled time off from work, it is not surprising that most (61 percent) employed caregivers report it impacting their job. 

Over half (53 percent) say they have to go in late, leave early, or take time off to provide care. Fifteen percent reported reducing their hours, 14 percent took leave and many reported receiving warnings about their performance or attendance, turning down a promotion, quitting, retiring or losing benefits. Financial impacts are especially pronounced for younger and lower-income employed caregivers, with significant numbers reporting being unable to afford basic necessities or pay bills, and having to borrow money from family or friends.

Solutions

Because most family caregivers now hold paying jobs and trends suggest their numbers will only increase, they need workplace leave benefits and other supports, including 1) flexible work options, 2) family leave and paid sick days, and 3) a culture of understanding about eldercare needs. Outside the workplace, two potential solutions are 4) an income tax credit to caregivers to offset the costs of care, and 5) paying family caregivers for at least some of the hours they provide care.

Suggested citation:

Lynn, Friss, Feinberg. Skufca, Laura. Managing a Paid Job and Family Caregiving Is a Growing Reality. Washington, DC: AARP. December 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.024