Caregiver-friendly workplaces make a difference in today’s marketplace
Caregiving for a loved one may be one of the most important roles you will ever take on in your life. Anyone who has been a caregiver understands that this role, while rewarding and deeply meaningful, can also be complex and time-consuming. For caregivers who also work part-time or full-time, it can be extremely difficult to manage the demands of one’s job and the needs at home. It is not surprising that many caregivers report feeling overwhelmed in their struggle to find a balance between these two worlds.
A 2016 report issued by the AARP Public Policy Institute, “The Dual Pressures of Family Caregiving and Employment,” found that the majority (60 percent) of family caregivers work at a paying job. Interestingly, while half (51 percent) of employed caregivers are older workers ages 50 and older, the rate of employment while caregiving is especially high for millennial caregivers ages 18-34. In this age group, nearly three in four (73 percent) report holding down a paying job while providing care for an ill or aging family member.
With this data in mind, it is more important than ever for businesses and employees of all ages to work together to create a caregiver-friendly environment. Certain business policies that can make a significant difference could be easy to implement. For example, an employer might offer flexible work hours on days when a caregiver needs to take their loved one to a medical appointment. Some employers may be open to supporting a telework schedule, which can be especially helpful if a caregiver has to pay for outside help to care for their loved one. Today, some companies even allow for a certain number of paid caregiver days, particularly for those employees caring for loved ones with high care needs due to dementia or serious illness.
A recent collaboration between AARP and ReACT, a coalition dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by employee caregivers, resulted in a study that can help stimulate these and other best practices. You can find the complete study, “Determining the Return on Investment: Supportive Policies for Employee Caregivers,” as well as other resources, at respectcaregivers.org.
ReACT’s Employer Resource Guide highlights one of the most important parts of the process in addressing the needs of employee caregivers: How an employer can help facilitate a conversation with their employee caregiver. Having an open and honest conversation can help both parties navigate daily challenges while still ensuring that job metrics are being met.
Another important resource for Maine caregivers is the AARP Maine Caregiver Resource Guide. Chock full of contact information for local, county and statewide resources, this free resource can help Maine caregivers get the type of assistance they need. The guide can also serve as an opportunity for employers to learn more about available programs that could be of benefit to their employees. Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free copy.
With 178,000 family caregivers in Maine alone, we know that by sharing resources in our own communities, and enhancing workplace flexibility, we can make a difference for each other and for family caregivers across the state.
Jane Margesson is the communications director for AARP Maine.