The burden of caring for America's aging population is quickly becoming a crisis. With the number of aging Americans expected to more than double by 2050, who will care for them? Skilled nursing facilities and long-term care communities are struggling to find employees, and after the COVID-19 pandemic scared some away from moving into them, family members and friends are increasingly being called on to take care of aging loved ones. This unpaid labor is taking a toll on caregivers' mental and physical health, and employers are wondering what they should do to ease this burden.
As the number of aging Americans grows, so does the need for caregivers. According to a recent AARP report, more than 50 million family caregivers are currently in the United States. By 2050, that number is expected to increase to 70 million. Most of these caregivers are women, and many are juggling paid work with their caregiving duties.
The physical and emotional demands of caregiving can be overwhelming and often lead to burnout. Studies have found caregivers are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and sleep problems than non-caregivers. They’re also at increased risk for chronic health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
In addition to the toll it takes on caregivers' health, caregiving can also have a major impact on their careers. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, nearly 1 in 3 caregivers reported leaving their employment in order to care for a loved one.
Employers are starting to take notice of the strain that caregiving is putting on their employees. It impacts not only productivity but also employee satisfaction and retention.
What Can Employers Do To Ease The Caregiving Burden?
Employers aren’t solely responsible for supporting caregivers, but they can play a vital role in easing the burden. As the number of aging Americans continues to grow, it's important that we all do our part to support those who are caring for them. Because the truth is, many of us will be affected by caregiving roles in one way or another.
Here are some of the best (and most cost-effective) ways employers can support their caregiver employees:
- Offer flexible work arrangements: One way to support caregivers is to offer flexible work arrangements. This could include telecommuting, reduced hours, or flexible scheduling.
- Offer special paid leave for caregiving responsibilities and emergencies: Employers can also offer paid leave for caregivers so that they don’t have to dip into their own PTO or sick days to take care of a loved one.
- Provide access to helpful caregiving resources: This can include creating a resource center with caregiving guides and information. It can also include offering a family caregiving benefit.
- Create a culture of understanding and empathy: This starts with educating employees (especially managers and company leaders) about the challenges of caregiving and offering support when needed. It also involves normalizing conversations about caregiving and creating an environment where caregivers feel comfortable asking for help.
Doing Our Part To Support Caregivers
The caregiving crisis is only going to get worse as the population ages. But with a little support from employers, caregivers can continue to do their important work without sacrificing their own health and well-being.
At Homethrive, it’s our mission to support caregivers and help them thrive in their roles. We offer a variety of resources to help employers support their employees who double as family caregivers.