5 things you can (and should) do to help your employee caregivers

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The big re-set moment for employers since the onset of Covid-19? Help the people on your team who are caring for older adults (there are MANY). Great pointers from Aloe Care Founder and CEO Ray Spoljaric in the latest BenefitsPro or read in full here:

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5 things you can (and should) do to help your employee caregivers

COVID-19 has served as a reset moment for employers to step back and rethink the workplace — from remote work options to childcare policies.

This year has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.” After months of remote or hybrid work models, millions of Americans are reflecting on what’s important to them and are leaving their jobs in search of more flexibility, more money, more happiness, and more fulfillment. In fact, according to a recent report from Monster.com, 95% of workers are considering changing jobs, and many cite “burnout.”

While this may seem doom and gloom for employers, it actually presents a tremendous opportunity — particularly in setting new policies that support those who have been doing double duty as caregivers and full-time employees.

Consider this young man I met recently. He has the “perfect job” — he’s in a role that aligns with his skill set, he’s paid well and in the city he loves. But his aging parents, who live halfway across the country, need help. He and his wife don’t feel like assisted living is an option for his parents, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Ensuring their health and safety is paramount, he’s now considering leaving his dream job, taking a pay cut, and relocating to be closer to them.

COVID-19 has served as a reset moment for employers to step back and rethink the workplace — from remote work options to childcare policies. But while much of the conversation has (rightfully) centered on parental responsibilities, there’s a particular group of people who have been left out of the back-to-office dialogue: individuals who are caregivers to older adults.

According to AARP, nearly one in five of Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult with health or functional needs. That’s bigger than the population of the state of California. Family caregivers spend an average of 24 hours a week providing care. Meanwhile, a report from MetLife Mature Market Group, National Alliance for Caregiving, and the University of Pittsburgh Institute on Aging, reveals that caregiving costs companies up to $37 billion annually due to lost productivity, absenteeism, and retention.

Family caregivers manage a wide range of unpaid, time-intensive tasks — from running everyday errands to liaising with doctors and health insurance companies to overseeing household chores like cooking and cleaning. For people like me who are part of the sandwich generation — caring for their own young children while simultaneously responsible for older adults in their lives — this can feel doubly overwhelming. And the “burnout” people are citing? It takes a physical, emotional and financial toll. It’s no wonder that 64% of caregivers admit that care responsibilities have impacted their career.

Employers must now consider compelling perks to bring employees back and set them up for better work-life balance. By demonstrating organizational workplace awareness and a modern reevaluation of policies, employers will most authentically convey that they value the people who work for them — perhaps the ultimate retention tool. Here are five tips for employers to better integrate caregiving support:

  • Ask! It’s so simple and yet so often not done.

     

    Consider polling your team to find out if they want/need support for personal caregiving — either for children or older adults. Their needs may have changed since they were last in the office and this will help you to understand, and help to meet, their challenges.

  • Provide flexible models.

     

    A 2015 AARP report estimated that two-thirds of caregivers were forced to make adjustments to their work-life balance, which ranged from minor inconveniences, such as tardiness, to leaving the workforce altogether; and one-fifth of caregivers had elected to take a voluntary leave of absence at some juncture. This not only hurts employees, but also impacts employers. COVID proved that remote work is possible for many industries, paving the way for more flexible work-from-home models that are especially vital for people providing personal care.

  • Caregiver Time-Off.

     

    Caring for aging or ill relatives is often uncertain and unexpected, which is why it’s important to reset definitions of how paid time off can be used. The long-term benefit: better retention and a more productive and engaged workforce. Companies such as Intel, CBS, and Bank of America are leading the way and already provide these benefits, as are some innovative younger tech firms, and organizations like AARP.

  • Make it easier.

     

    Consider subsidizing remote caregiving solutions that enable employees to get at-a-glance status updates and have check-in functionality from an app or a portal so they can have peace of mind that their loved ones are safe and healthy, even when at a distance.

  • Share resources.

     

    In a recent Caring Company survey, three out of four (73%) employees reported having some type of current caregiving responsibility. Yet many companies have remained silent on a topic that’s impacting a significant portion of their workforce. Whether it’s connecting employees with relevant services or sharing specialized resources, employers can play an active role in supporting caregivers in the workplace.

Every day, 10,000 U.S. boomers turn 65. According to research, more than 80% of Americans want to stay in their homes as they age. At some point, many of these older, independent adults will need ongoing assistance, and more often than not that responsibility will fall to family members who ultimately serve as the backbone of long-term care. But who is caring for the caregiver?

Before the pandemic, it was estimated that 42 million people were serving as caregivers. That number has likely grown in the past year. As companies set new guidelines for the workplace and request employees return to the office, it’s time for them to step up and implement fair and flexible scheduling that takes into account all types of caregiving, offer paid sick time that can be used to take care of a loved one, and create environments where caregiving is acknowledged and respected. It’s just good business.

Ray Spoljaric is CEO and co-founder of Aloe Care.

ABOUT ALOE CARE HEALTH: Aloe Care's voice-activated system is the world's most-advanced in-home medical alert and communication system for older adults. Aloe Care's patented, award-winning solution was created by caregivers, for caregivers. More than 70 percent of the team actively supports aging-in-place parents and grandparents. The company is headquartered in New York.

For more information, visit www.aloecare.com.

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Susan Lietz
Chief Editor at Aloe Care

Writer, caregiver, dog-mom.

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