Caregivers & employment challenges were a big problem before Covid-19 made them worse. This is a companion article to the podcast episode Caregiving & Employment – Make it All Work.
Currently, there are over 16 million Americans that require help with daily living. Most of these people get help from unpaid family members and friends. Some will eventually utilize the services of paid support. As our population ages, we’re going to need more people to care for them. Unfortunately, there will be more of them then there are people to see to their needs.
This is the caregivers & employment crisis we need to work together to avoid. There are actually two crises that need solving—family caregivers who are still employed. Their need to balance multiple responsibilities is a growing problem.
Second, the lack of paid caregivers to assist these family caregivers. Home health aides and nursing assistants provide the majority of paid care services. Currently, there are not enough of them.
Home care workers are predominantly female (87 percent), and people of color (62 percent), and nearly one in three (31 percent) were born outside the United States. The majority of home care workers (54 percent) have a high school education or less. (Kezia Scales, Ph.D.)
Another complicating factor is the higher number of millennials becoming caregivers. In general, this group of family caregivers is at a much different life stage than a spousal caregiver. This is where we need to start finding solutions.
Who Is Doing The Caregiving?
Millennials and some Gen X generation are working and raising children. Because of this, their responsibilities are tremendous. These dueling needs can force many women out of the workforce. This works against strengthening family and retirement finances.
Keeping talented, motivated people in our workforce is critical, so we need solutions to make that possible. Finding ways to have flexibility in their jobs is one place to start.
Consider the option of utilizing a team. If one team member has a family emergency, the remaining colleagues will have enough knowledge to temporarily step in. Small groups are generally used for most projects; therefore, this seems like a natural option.
Utilizing various age groups in a team may add additional benefits. In an ideal world, each group would be at different stages of their careers. The obvious benefit would be mentoring. Another potential benefit would be the ability to provide the “take-over” option in case of caregiving emergencies. Between mentoring and temporarily taking over, younger employees will benefit from the increased experience.
Thanks to the Coronavirus forcing many employees to work from home, we now know that remote work is possible. We’ve also seen the challenges presented by working from home. Thankfully, these problems are not insurmountable.
Why Do Employers Need to Worry About Caregiving?
Caregivers are generally highly motivated, problem-solving individuals. While their challenges may feel like more trouble, their contribution to the company can be invaluable. We just have to learn how to “make it all work.”
Companies lose billions of dollars every year in lost productivity because of these dual responsibilities. Losing financial and retirement security happens when caregiving and employment collide. Strengthening our economy hinges on employers and employees working together to achieve a workable balance.
Consider a balance of remote work and office work. An employee caring for someone who struggles more in the morning may benefit from half-day remote work. A parent with school-aged children may benefit from remote afternoon work.
Instead of an executive employee retiring early, perhaps their skills could be utilized in a way that allows them to be productive to both responsibilities. Losing their institutional knowledge will cost more than finding a solution that benefits you both.
What About Paid Caregivers?
The home care workforce was expected to add over a million jobs between 2018 and 2028. There are not revised reports on this, and we know the need will not change.
To recruit and retain quality home health aids, we will need to improve working conditions and pay. Many home care workers have very little training, which may be reflective of their working environment.
More than babysitters, paid caregivers to require training to adequately care for someone with Alzheimer’s. From my experiences as a family caregiver, the more understanding and knowledge, the fewer challenges you’ll have. More accurately, the better able you’ll be to handle most problems.
Caregivers are an integral part of a team, and understanding this will help. Most seniors are very reluctant to have strangers helping in their homes. We’re going to have to educate our society about the blessings these people offer all of us.
Currently, employers offer referral services to their employees. By contracting with home health companies, companies may be able to provide incredible benefits. In the event an employee has a family emergency, there would be readily available solutions.
Creativity Can Help Solve Our Crises
With more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, solutions need to come quickly. In order to find answers, we need to look at the problem from different perspectives. On-site adult daycare is a good option. Combining senior care and child care has multiple benefits.
Notably, combing senior and child care has the benefit of an additional grandparent type relationship. Seniors can read to the youngsters while the energy of the youth stimulates the seniors. Including the employee in this scenario, you’ll see that they benefit from this arrangement. Significantly, the give-and-take between the two generations provides benefits that are hard to quantify.
All in all, the most important takeaway from both this article and the related podcast is to start conversations. Altogether we can find new solutions and solve the caregiver and employment crisis.
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