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When Work Works for You: Identifying What Support You Need as a Working Family Caregiver

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You thought that caring for children was a challenge. They're grown now, but you may be feeling that same work-family tug in looking after your senior loved one. You're not alone.

Nearly 10 percent (9.7 percent) of American workers currently provide eldercare, but an estimated 31.4 percent expect to be doing so in the next five years, according to unpublished data from the 2016 National Study of the Changing Workforce (Society for Human Resource Management-SHRM).

While 78 percent of working family caregivers surveyed report receiving support in their caregiving tasks, majorities of those caring for their mothers and fathers say they are the sole or primary caregiver, according to research conducted by Home Instead, Inc. in 2017, franchisor of the Home Instead® network. As one family caregiver put it, "Although you want to be with your loved one 100 percent of the time (or as much as possible), you still have to work to make ends meet in your own life. It's hard and extremely emotional."

Aside from adding extra hours to the day, it could be difficult to know what can realistically help you achieve the best work and family fit when caring for an aging loved one. Identifying your needs may be the first step in helping you manage your job and maintaining a quality family life as well as your own health. Studies have revealed support in the following areas to be important to working family caregivers. Perhaps these topics resonate with you:

In a Harvard Business Review study (PDF) released in 2019*, working caregivers surveyed said these were the most used available benefits:

  • Flexible work hours (35 percent)
  • Personal time or other paid leave (27 percent)
  • Caregiving referral service (26 percent)
  • On or near-site child care (21 percent)

In the same study, employees anticipated using these benefits provided in the future:

  • Flexible work hours (21 percent)
  • Personal time or other paid leave (21 percent)
  • Counseling services (14 percent)
  • Unpaid leave (13 percent)

According to Drew Holzapfel, ReACT (Respect a Caregiver's Time) convener, a significant issue facing working caregivers is often that they don't realize the benefits they are eligible to receive from their employers, which may include an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) with access to eldercare resources. "Also, flextime can have a stigma, and working caregivers might not know they can use FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) for senior care, or they might not know how to access their EAP." Check out what your company has to offer that can help you as a family caregiver.

Access to respite care: Respite care is temporary care help when you need relief, whether it's assistance taking a loved one to a doctor's appointment, time away to take care of your personal business or to see your own doctor. Look to family and friends if you can, or contact a professional caregiving service such as Home Instead® to find out how they could help you.

Greater flexibility: Flexibility is important to family caregivers trying to juggle doctor appointments as well as to react to emergencies with a senior loved one. In the 2017 edition of the Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare by ReACT and AARP, the biggest workplace change noted in the past five years is that "time and flexibility are what working caregivers value most of all." ** Half of 14 companies interviewed have expanded their PTO (paid time off) programs in recent years.

Time off: Seventy-eight percent of employers in the 2016 National Study of Employers by SHRM*** say they provide paid or unpaid time off for employees for eldercare without jeopardizing employees' jobs. Fifty-nine percent of those who responded to the Home Instead survey say additional flexibility from their employer would help them be a much better employee. If you need time away from work for caregiving duties, let your manager know that this is becoming an option offered increasingly by other companies. Asking for extended periods of time off may not be feasible at your job. But working with your manager and co-workers may help generate a plan that could benefit the company and others as well.

More understanding from management: ReACT's Holzapfel noted that senior caregiving issues often are not accepted like child-care issues and might even be stigmatized. In fact, 75 percent of working caregivers surveyed by Home Instead feel employers give parents more support to care for children than they give to people caring for an aging adult. "Teams seem more willing to make accommodations for working parents. Culturally, it's accepted more. A mark of success will be when we start to see pictures of an elderly parent or grandparent being cared for alongside photos of children on employees' desks." Do what you can to get your manager and co-workers acquainted with your aging loved one and help them understand the kinds of issues you and your senior loved one are facing. And, by opening up, chances are you'll discover you're not the only one at your company caring for an aging loved one.

Related Resources

*Harvard Business School study: How employers can help employees manage their caregiving responsibilities (PDF)

**Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare (PDF)

***The SHRM 2016 National Study of Employers (NSE) (PDF), released in 2017 by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management)

Last revised: May 31, 2017

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  1. July 9, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Posted by kathy

    where can I possibly get pull ups for an elderly friend who cant afford them,due to his granddaughter stealing money from him,and he was on a fixed budget.please help me with this matter I have tried everywhere to get help for this man


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