Parents know the toll that is caring for their children. When parents have to care for their children and their parents, that toll can increase exponentially. Add working part- or full-time to the mix, and life can seem downright unmanageable. Then the pandemic wreaked even more havoc. If you care for parents, kids, or both, you may feel isolated and exhausted. You may have little energy to practice self-care and seek out support. But you can’t help others if not well yourself. So, superhero caregivers, how can you care for your own needs?
The caregiver struggle is real, and the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) shares some eye-opening statistics. According to Homethrive’s 2021 Employer Caregiver Survey, 79% of caregivers surveyed don’t receive any related benefits from their employers. Also, 40% don’t talk about their caregiving responsibilities at work. Often this is because they are afraid they may seem less than fully committed to their job, and in turn, miss out on promotions or lose the job entirely.
AARP reports that about 20% of Americans workers are simultaneously caring for an elder or special needs adult. About 33% of American workers are caring for a child under 14 years old, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Try to find a community support group. Turn to churches and friends to see if they have recommendations for providers, training classes, podcasts, videos and more. Make sure whatever information you rely on is up-to-date and comes from trusted sources.
Make sure your dependent also has the help they need. Find the best geriatrician or pediatrician to ensure your dependent’s health. If caring for a parent, find a good attorney specializing in elder law. If appropriate, you may even want consider hiring the services of a geriatric care manager.
In The Caring Company, Harvard Business Review details the pressures there are on caregiver employees, why employers should care, and how they can help.
Perhaps the two biggest challenges for caregiver employees are the need for time off and for flexibility in work hours. These enable them to pursue time-sensitive activities for dependents (medical appointments, etc.) during “traditional” work hours.
Extra PTO for caregivers and flexible schedules are two ways that employers can help support employees who are giving so much. Employer support can also include financial assistance.
Employers can support employees who are also caregivers by offering benefit programs which actually cost the employer little (and may actually save them on taxes). Sponsoring a dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA) makes it possible for employees to set aside funds from payroll before taxes are calculated. This tax-free money is then used to pay for help during the day while the employee is at work. Whether the employee sends a parent to a senior day center or a child to to a daycare or after-school facility, the money is not taxed. That saves money for the employer (reduced payroll tax matching) and the employee (reduced payroll taxes), and provides the employee with peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are being cared for in their absence.
For caregivers who are suffering from stress, anxiety and burnout, employer-sponsored employee assistance programs (EAPs) may be just what the doctor ordered.
And finally, employers may consider offering employees a lifestyle spending account (LSA). While LSA funds are not pre-tax, they do help employees access a wide variety of physical, emotional and financial wellness activities they might not otherwise be able to consider.
While you can’t discount the toll caregiving takes on your health and wallet, caregivers do receive many rewards that aren’t necessarily calculable. These include the sense of satisfaction in knowing that you have made a difference.
Caregivers bring a special set of skills to the workplace. Companies that employ caregivers may find that offering fairly simple support measures like those outlined above often provide far more benefit than they cost.
The Adventures of Captain Contributor is an employee education and engagement program developed by DataPath, Inc.