Employees Caring for Aging Parents

Who Are the Employees Caring for Aging Parents?

Employees caring for aging parents often don’t advertise the fact at work. It may be for privacy reasons or out of fear of repercussions. But there are a lot of them, probably in your workplace right now: about 53 million Americans provide care to a senior or another family member with disabilities; 61% of those work for pay and another 16% of the workforce expects to become a caregiver in the next two years; approximately 44% of caregivers are male; and 25% of caregivers also care for children. As the American population ages and disabilities like cancer and dementia become more prevalent, more employees will be caring for adult family members.

Work+Family Insight - Employees Caring for Elderly Parents

Eldercare is Different from Childcare

Caring for aging parents or adults with disabilities is different from childcare in several key respects. First, the need for elder care is more likely to arise with little or no warning, unlike childcare. Pregnancy and adoption procedures usually give employers and employees months to prepare, but an aging parent can unexpectedly break a hip or have a stroke.

In addition, childcare typically involves children’s increased independence, lessening need for care, and a somewhat defined time period of 16 to 18 years (special needs children may be on a different timeline). Eldercare, on the other hand, often involves aging parents’ decreased independence, growing need for care, and an open-ended time period that can stretch decades.

A big difference between childcare and eldercare is how we feel about it. Employees, and their employers and co-workers, may chat about what they did with their children over the weekend but probably won’t have happy conversations about taking care of their parents. Supervisors can feel awkward talking with their employees about caring for their parents. Employees can feel overwhelmed by their parent’s need for care and burnt out.

Work+Family Insight - Caring for Elderly Parents

How Can Employers Help Employees Caring for Aging Parents?

Caregivers of seniors and family members with disabilities report a high level of stress as they juggle work and care, which risks their own healthcare and undermines their productivity. Limited workplace flexibility is an often-cited reason that these caregivers leave their jobs or take extended leaves.

Employers can help by providing a supportive environment where caregivers can be open about the struggles they are facing. Their stress can be reduced by benefits that assist with providing care (for example, spending accounts that include expenses for caregiving and services that help to coordinate care), policies that make it easier for them to combine work and care (for example, flexible work and family leave), and initiatives to control bias. Contact us for help determining what supports your workplace needs.

Work+Family Insight - Employees Caring for Elderly Parents

Let’s talk about how you can work better with your caregiving employees.

Workforce 21C is now Work+Family Insight.