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10 Benefits Working Caregivers Want (and Need)

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May 31, 2017

"Shelley," a 51-year-old single mother who raised three children on her own, including a son who survived cancer, also cared for her father and mother before they died. Despite receiving a medical assisting certification and a nine-month computer programming degree, she was laid off from her job in 2008 and has not been able to find work since. She currently is on disability as a result of a childhood back injury that has worsened.

"Caregiving and working were hard emotionally, physically and mentally, and it took a toll," said Shelley, who most recently had worked for a health care organization. "There were a couple of incidents where my mom fell and I needed to meet the ambulance. My employer said, ‘You know, if you leave, you're not going to get paid.' Eventually I was laid off. They said I was good at my job, but I was too slow. I understood. My mind was in two different places."

Shelley said she felt access to family caregiving resources could have helped her stay employed longer.

In the 2017 edition of Supporting Working Caregivers: Case Studies of Promising Practices by ReACT (Respect a Caregiver's Time) and AARP, common themes in eldercare emerged among 14 national companies interviewed including additional resources being offered by employers to working family caregivers of older adults.

Employers are becoming more sensitive to the needs of family caregivers, the report noted. "People often need privacy and time during regular working hours to phone care providers, arrange for a variety of services, or accompany their loved ones to medical appointments," explained Drew Holzapfel, ReACT convener.

Following, from the report, is a summarized list of benefits employers are increasingly offering to employees:

  1. Flexibility. The biggest change since the 2012 edition of this report is the growing realization that time and flexibility are what working family caregivers value the most. More employers are recognizing that flexible work arrangements and paid leave for elder caregiving can serve as powerful recruiting and retention levers and position companies as an "employer of choice." In a survey of North American working family caregivers, conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, 55 percent of caregivers surveyed say paid time off and a flexible scheduling policy would help them a lot..
  2. Paid time off for caregiving. Half of the companies interviewed have expanded their PTO (paid time off) programs in recent years with at least two (Caring.com and Home Instead®, Inc.,) going so far as to implement unlimited PTO. Deloitte made national headlines in 2016 by allowing employees to take up to 16 weeks of PTO annually for caregiving, including care for aging family members.
  3. Expert information. All of the organizations interviewed offer employees a combination of information resources, referral services, and advice by phone. Most provide these resources online through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or an intranet portal managed by Human Resources. More than half provide access to phone consultations or 24/7 hotlines.
  4. Workshops and webinars. At Pfizer, Inc., free webinars provide information and recommendations for caregivers facing different caregiving situations. Emory University offers about a dozen in-person workshops and webinars each year with experts on common caregiving issues such as legal issues, family conversations and managing the care of a loved one living with dementia.
  5. Legal and/or financial advice. Employees at Bank of America take advantage of up to four free legal consultations annually on topics such as preparation of wills, healthcare directives and proxies, and financial power of attorney agreements.
  6. On-site support. Several of the companies studied saw value in offering an independent eldercare consultant onsite. For employees, having a go-to expert onsite at work eases the burden of researching and vetting support services, which can be stressful as well as time-consuming, the report noted.
  7. Intangibles such as culture. Nearly every company interviewed mentioned a supportive culture as a key success factor. Through training and role modeling, organizations must create a safe environment in which people can speak honestly with their supervisors and co-workers.
  8. Care consultations. One of the hallmarks of the University of Arizona's eldercare assistance program is free consultations available to faculty and students that include a gerontologist who develops a caregiving plan for employees.
  9. Emergency back-up care. At CBS, employees benefit from up to 15 days of emergency backup care services with most of the services subsidized by CBS with the exception of a small co-pay asked by the employee. At Home Instead, Inc., employees are eligible for reduced hourly rates when they engage Home Instead professional CAREGiversSM for their loved ones.
  10. Caregiver support groups or networks. Eli Lilly employees started a support group in 1997 for an outlet to discuss stressful situations and ask other caregivers for guidance. In addition to providing a counseling space, the group shares information and resources and organizes speakers on eldercare topics.

Think about the needs of your workforce and the kinds of resources that could best benefit your employees.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 2, 2017 at 1:17 am | Posted by Terri E Flory

    Taking care of a disabled older family member is honorable, but not very rewarding. Especially when you are dealing with alzheimers or dementia. I often feel I have no life of my own. I take care of my husbands father. I have very little help. I am disappointed that his siblings do not offer more assistance. It is hard to deal with no days off, no privacy and an attitude from so many people that think I am going to rip him off.

    Reply

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