According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 50 million people provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aging family member or friend during any given year. Thirty percent of caregivers are themselves aged 65 or over; another 15% are between the ages of 45 to 54. While there is no reliable estimate of the number of family caregivers, at least 7 million Americans are caring for a parent at any given time.
The need for caregivers will increase as the boomer population ages. People over the age of 65 are expected to increase at a 2.3% rate, but the number of family members available to care for them will increase by less than 1%. That is expected to result in added stress on the family caregiver who might not have others to help with caregiving duties.
Already, millions of working adults are juggling the competing demands of caring for a chronically ill or disabled parent, raising a family, and managing a career. The negative effects include time lost from work, lower productivity, quitting a job to give care, lost career opportunities, lower future earnings, and stress-related illnesses.
According to recent studies:
- Caregivers comprise about 13% of the workforce. Nearly 20% of family caregivers are providing 40 hours of care a week or more. As a result, some 10% have to go from full-time to part-time jobs because of their caregiving responsibilities.
Source: Home Instead Senior Care
- During the year 2000, the typical working family caregiver lost $109 per day in wages and health benefits due to the need to provide full time care. Eventually, some 12% of caregivers quit their jobs to provide care full-time.
Source: The American Council of Life Insurers
- American businesses lose as much as $34 billion each year due to employees’ needs to care for senior loved ones. Both male and female children of aging parents make changes at work in order to accommodate caregiving responsibilities, such as modifying work schedules, coming in late or leaving early, or altering work-related travel.
Source: The MetLife Mature Market Institute
There are a number of employee programs that can provide support for family caregivers:
- Some employers offer “cafeteria style” employee benefits which allow employees to select supplemental dependent care coverage to reimburse costs for in-home care or adult day care. Benefits might also cover therapeutic counseling for the employee to help cope with the stresses of family caregiving.
- Human Resource or employee assistance program (EAP) staff can provide information on helpful Internet sites, local information and referral services or resource centers. Some larger businesses organize in-house caregiver support groups or coordinate with local community groups or hospitals so that employees can attend an outside support group.
- Alternative work schedules such as flexible work hours, family illness days, and leave time may be available. Check with your manager to see if you can modify your own work schedule to accommodate your caregiving needs.
- If you work for a company that has 50 or more employees, it must comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a seriously ill parent, spouse or child, while protecting job security. Some smaller firms also use the FMLA guidelines to provide support for individual employees.
It’s important that you take the time to learn what is offered by your employer. Doing so could alleviate some of your stress.
**Tune back in next month for the next part of our CAREGiver Stress series to learn more about the signs of stress.**