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Want to offer support for caregivers of aging relatives? Read this

Have you considered how your company can offer support for caregivers?

As the nation’s population ages, more employees are taking on the role of caregivers. And it’s a trend that’s only picking up steam.

The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double, from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, according to Population Reference Bureau’s “Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States.” A steep rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease could further drive the demand for elder care.

What does that mean for businesses?

More employees will be caring for elderly parents, some while raising children at the same time. They’ll be pulled in many different directions, working hard to juggle responsibilities at work and home. This may pose a challenge for businesses in terms of staffing and productivity.

But it also presents an opportunity.

Given the right support, caregivers can be productive workers and an asset to your company. Organizations lending a hand will earn a reputation for valuing family, as well as their bottom line – a plus when it comes to employee recruitment and retention.

With this massive major demographic shift on the horizon, it’s a smart move for businesses to stay up to date on legal protections offered to caregivers and develop a plan that offers support for caregivers.

Caregiver rights in the workplace

When making decisions regarding workers with caregiving responsibilities, their rights and your legal obligations should be top of mind.

  1. FMLA: The Family Leave and Medical Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to give workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member. The time can be taken all in one block or intermittently.
  2. State laws: As of 2020, a handful of states have mandated paid family leave, and many other states are considering bills that would provide employees with paid leave. Check to see what laws are applicable in your state.
  3. Federal regulations: In addition, civil rights statutes and other laws may apply to caregivers in the workplace. These include:
    1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    2. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act
    3. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
    4. The Equal Pay Act
    5. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act

These regulations are often cited in caregiver discrimination lawsuits.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers a guide on best practices for managing workers with caregiving responsibilities. It’s also wise to consult outside legal counsel to craft a comprehensive policy that protects your organization from legal liability.

Ways to offer support for caregivers

1. Provide an employee assistance program

Employee assistance programs (EAP) offer support on multiple fronts including:

  • Counseling for stress related to caregiving
  • Referrals to elder care, such as in-home care, adult day care facilities and nursing homes
  • Help with financial and legal issues

If you don’t have an EAP, it may be worth looking into. You can find one through a benefits broker. Or, if you are with a professional employer organization (PEO), their benefit plan packages will typically include this benefit.

However, even if you don’t have an EAP, you can still connect your employees to resources in their community.

The Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator offers information on services that help older adults to live independently in their homes and communities. Contact your local agency on aging for additional resources in your area.

2. Bring in an expert to speak at a lunch and learn

Managing the day-to-day caregiving decisions and details involved in caregiving can be overwhelming.

To help your employees make sense of it all, consider inviting experts to speak about common caregiving issues, such as:

  • Navigating Medicare
  • How to save for retirement while caring for an elderly parent
  • Managing a chronic illness
  • Long term care options – home and community based and residential care
  • Stress management for caregivers

3. Start an affinity group

Affinity groups connect employees in the same stage of life or going through the similar challenges.

Working parent groups are common at many workplaces.

Why not start a group for employees caring for an elderly parent? Or, you can make it more inclusive to cover all types of caregivers.

Knowing that others are in the same boat can make a world of difference to employees struggling with the challenges of caregiving, and can be a forum for advice.

To make your caregivers affinity group successful:

Tap into existing networks.

Look for employees connecting on their own – whether it’s swapping doctor recommendations or offering a sympathetic ear to a colleague’s latest caregiving crisis. Enlist these employees to help shape the group into something that meets their needs, now, and in the future.

Hold meetings at a consistent time and place that’s convenient for caregivers.

Avoid scheduling meetings first thing in the morning or in the evening, when caregivers may be dropping off/picking up parents from adult day care or relieving paid help or family.

Make meetings brief30 minutes to an hour topsto fit in with caregivers’ busy schedules.

Make sure everyone knows about it.

Promote the affinity group for caretakers through all communications channelsemail, texts, messaging, newsletters, flyers and one-on-one conversations. Do your best to cut through the communication clutter and keep the group top of mind.

4. Look for creative solutions

Think outside of the box to maximize your employee’s productivity, while allowing them to care for the ones they love. Here are some options:

Flexible scheduling

If an employee needs to drop off a parent at an adult day care in the morning, for example, she could work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A few tweaks might make all the difference.

Remote work

If their position lends itself to remote work, give the employee the option of working from home to take a parent to the doctor or provide care from home.

Reduced workload

Temporarily taking something off a caregiving employee’s plate may be enough to get him through a difficult situation.

Cross training

Train other employees on the position so that they can fill the gap if the caregiving employee must take an indefinite leave.

These are just some of the ways employers can offer support for caregivers, a growing part of the workforce. Learn more about how to keep your valued employees onboard. Download and read our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to employee retention.