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Caregiving Is the New Normal

Supporting Employees With Caregiving Responsibilities in the Workplace

Father and son, smiling together, sunny day, Respect a Caregiver's Time, ReACT, AARP

What Employers Are Saying

“The caregiving workforce is this invisible army that we have, that we’re slowly starting to appreciate. And part of it is just that they don’t often complain. So many times the biggest issue for a caregiver isn’t just trying to take care of their loved one after they fall, after a long term illness, it’s how to do that and juggle their job.” — Debra Whitman, Executive Vice President Policy, Strategy and International Affairs, AARP

How Can I Better Support My Employees?

  • Know the Facts: Family caregivers are as likely to be employed as noncaregivers. The majority (74 percent) of adults with eldercare responsibilities have worked at a paying job at some point during their caregiving experience. Nearly one in four (22 percent) middle-aged and older workers (ages 45 to 64) — typically caring for a parent — report being family caregivers: the largest of any age group in the labor force.
  • Understand This Is Here to Stay: In the not too distant future, the “caregiver support ratio” will start to plummet when the first boomers begin turning 80, the age at which the need for long-term services and supports (LTSS) increases. By 2030, only four potential family caregivers will be available for every person 80 and older, down from a high of more than 7 to 1 in 2010. By 2050, when all the baby boomers have reached old age, the ratio will fall to less than 3 to 1, and more individuals with LTSS needs may need to rely on paid services for all or a part of their care.
  • Consider Implementing New Programs: now that you have had the conversation and are ready to change the framework in how you see your employees' needs, consider easy ways to change your programs. Be willing to evolve with our changing times and use other organizations that are already doing this as  examples.

Tools to Help Embrace Caregiving as the New Normal

  • Emory Caregiver Support Program — Emory University is a member of ReACT and an organization that has effectively changed its HR programs and benefits to better help their working caregivers. After two years of research and planning, Emory University has launched a new program to support employees who are responsible for the care of an aging, sick, or chronically ill adult family member.
  • Families and Work Institute — Ultimately, the institute’s work benefits American employers and employees, their families, their communities and the institutions that support them. This Employer ElderCare toolkit helps employers, community leaders, and health professionals become advocates for healthy aging.
  • The Sloan Center for Aging & Work — The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College promotes quality of employment as an imperative for the 21st century multigenerational workforce. The Center encourages workplaces to be responsive to the needs of older workers by increasing job quality, flexibility, and employee engagement.
  • Eldercare Calculator — Once you fully understand the impact of caregiving on your employees, use this tool to estimate the impact on your business.

What the Research Shows

In 1985, Elaine Brody, a well-known gerontologist, suggested that “parent care” was becoming normative in the nation and even at that time, the caregiving responsibilities might be exceeding the capacity of the families and friends who had taken on the care. In 2012, 23 years later, a special issue of The Gerontologist on the aging boomers suggest that boomers are not only actively involved in family caregiving they have complicating family factors that lead to a complex caregiving situation for many. For example, there are more siblings in the “average baby boomer” family creating complexities in the decision-making and logistics in caregiving. We will continue to see caregiving as “normative” well into the future and it is not only midlife or older workers who will need support in their caregiving. Younger workers may also be actively engaged in support an older family member. More respondents in the “Caregiving in the US” survey (2009, NAC & AARP) were younger than respondents in the age group of 18–49 with 25 %.