A father works at home at his laptop with his wife handing him their small child. Work from home concept with family care.

Caregiving - It's Not Just a 9 to 5 Job

Employers can better serve working family caregivers by providing options and understanding during challenging circumstances.

Reviewed by
Rick Lauber

Juggling new responsibilities … enduring heightened stress … managing long days … fighting exhaustion … watching helplessly as my parents physically and mentally declined. These were among the many challenges I faced as a caregiver. Mom had Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia while Dad had Alzheimer’s disease. Much like many other prospective and/or new caregivers, I was not properly prepared for caregiving and these challenges were unforeseen and caught me completely off guard. Yet another surprising challenge was balancing my regular job with my caregiving job – this is becoming a growing problem. 

As explained in this article from The Family Caregiver Alliance, the numbers are alarming.

“More than half of employed caregivers work full-time (56 percent), 16 percent work between 30 and 39 hours, and 25 percent work fewer than 30 hours a week. On average, employed caregivers work 34.7 hours a week.” Of those employed caregivers, “More than 1 in 6 Americans working full-time or part-time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend.” This additional care can easily add up to between 20 – 25 hours per week.

Keeping up this pace can be done in the short term, but it cannot realistically be continued on a long-term basis (consider that caregiving may last years). Trying to multitask may seem like the answer, but by doing so, caregivers may accomplish less than more. They may take unpaid time off, lose focus and/or enthusiasm for their work, completely withdraw, or be torn between two obligations (to an employer and to aging parents). 

Attempting to accomplish all that needed my attention as a caregiver, I woke up early, gulped down a cup of coffee (and mistakenly considered that as a nutritious breakfast …), and dropped by to quickly visit my parents at their senior home before heading into the office. During the workday, I was often distracted thinking about my parents’ conditions and what needed to be done. I slipped out at lunch to run caregiving errands. That certainly wasn’t the end of it either! I also experienced insomnia, anxiety, and poor concentration. 

Realizing I was reaching the breaking point, I chose to discuss my situation with my employer. Fortunately, that conversation went well (imagine my relief!) and the resulting decision was for me to work part-time. Reducing my working hours obviously impacted my income, but it provided me more time to handle caregiving duties. And, at that time, my parents were my priority. 

It’s important to note that the onus isn’t just on working caregivers to find some means of balance between their own personal and professional lives. Employers can help their own caregiving staff and doing this works to their benefit. Consider that a working caregiver either voluntarily leaving his/her job or being dismissed results in an unpleasant hole for the employer. The employer can lose the services of a long-time, dedicated worker and must now advertise, short-list resumes, interview job candidates, and train a new hire – all of which can be time consuming and expensive. Microsoft, Deloitte, Philips, and Bristol Myers Squibb are among the growing forward-thinking number of companies who have realized the importance of supporting their own caregiving staff and offer some kind of support to their staff. With just over one-quarter of the U.S. population now providing care at some level, many more companies need to follow suit. 

Company caregiving support can take various forms.

Here are some ways employers can better support their family caregiver employees.

Flexible work schedules

As caregiving needs are often many and can easily increase, working caregivers can benefit by having more accommodating working hours. A split shift would allow for time in the middle of the day to visit Mom or Dad, meet with a doctor, make phone calls (to caregiving service providers who will be only open during the day), and more. Another option could be offering the working caregiver a rotating day off each week to use as needed. 

Paid leave

It’s little wonder that working caregivers try to keep their careers as they become caregivers. A lost job results in lost income. Employers need to recognize that it can be in their best interests to support the working caregiver by offering paid leave (whether it be two weeks or two months). If a working caregiver must dip into his/her own leave time, this can often be broken up into smaller increments where all the available leave doesn’t have to be taken at once. 

Job sharing

Depending on an employee’s workload, duties may be assigned to others. Other current staff could help out or temporary staff could be called in.  

Information programs

Bringing in outside experts to discuss caregiving issues and what to expect could benefit both working caregivers and employers. 

Telework / Work from Home Opportunities

While the majority of working arrangements have focused on an employee being physically at a company site, that has been changing. With a computer and strong Internet connection, staff can set themselves up at home. Zoom calls and emails between employer and employee can provide a means of keeping in touch. 

Home care cost coverage

Paying for home care can become a major expense for a working caregiver. Employers could consider compensating their caregiving staff or offering blocks of paid home care / respite care time to those in need. 

If a working caregiver chooses to leave his/her career, there can be consequences for doing so. 

Difficulty re-entering the workforce

Not all employers will understand or sympathize with a gaping hole on a resume. Working part-time or even volunteering can look far better. 

Decreased earnings

Without regular work, an unemployed caregiver will not be paid. This means that a caregiver leaving his/her job must often dip into his/her own savings to survive. In addition to regular paychecks, an unemployed caregiver may also miss out on a company’s retirement plan or perks. 

Age discrimination

Caregivers leaving their careers will grow older and may face a harder time re-entering the workforce, when they are ready to do so. Regrettably, a future employer may not completely understand a gap on a resume for “caregiving” or only see an older applicant as someone who may want to retire in a few years, demand a higher rate of pay, or not be open to learning new work systems and processes. Older applicants, however, can be welcome hires as they have much to offer employers including experience, stability, and trustworthiness. 

Personally speaking, I am glad I found a viable answer to my own situation. By working part-time, I could devote more hours to helping my aging parents and doing so had its rewards. Specifically, I found that I could replace my employment, but I could not replace my time remaining with Mom and Dad. While caregivers could continue to struggle to keep up with multiple responsibilities, by finding some kind of balance between a career and caregiving, life can become easier. 

To learn more about how you can get compensated for your family caregiving, Get Started with Aidaly and check out our State-by-State Guide to see the tax credits, benefits, and funds you could be eligible for in your state.

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