There are approximately 34 million American caregivers1 in the United States, and the majority of them are working adults. Not only must they juggle caregiving responsibilities with home and family life, they must somehow weave them into their daily work lives as well. The leading signs of caregiver burnout are well documented, knowing them can help curb the side effects of feeling worn down.
Caregiving takes a toll on the work and professional lives of caregivers. Work is often interrupted by phone calls, the need to schedule and attend medical appointments, and emergencies that require personal attention. These interruptions can delay promotions, raises, and lead to reduced hours on the job. In some cases, caregivers must leave their jobs altogether to meet the demands of caring for a loved one. These are just some of the reasons why companies should care about caregiver burnout.
There are significant pieces of research that provide insights into the impact of caregiving on employees, here are two studies on the subject:
1. We conducted a survey of caregivers to determine the emotional costs of dementia caregiving. We found that dementia caregivers were seven times more likely to experience physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from caregiving than those who do not care for loved ones with dementia. Also, they were three times more likely to feel extreme stress from their caregiving responsibilities.
2. A national study of 1,130 long-distance caregivers conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving with Zogby International looked at the impact of caregiving on work and the MetLife Mature Market Institutesm published a report on the findings. It clearly shows the difficulties inherent in being a caregiver while trying to hold down a job.
The majority of respondents in the study, (80%), were working either full or part-time.
- The percent of long-distance caregivers working part-time increased substantially from the 1997 study, growing from 8% to 18%.
- More than four in ten had to rearrange their work schedules in order to take care of their caregiving responsibilities.
- 36% reported missing days of work.
- 12% took a leave of absence from work.
- Men and women reported in equal numbers that they had to rearrange work schedules – leaving early, arriving late, taking unpaid leave, or considering changing employers to accommodate caregiving responsibilities.
These findings make a very strong case for why companies should care about caregiver burnout. As the population ages and more family members serve as caregivers, employers are going to have to make accommodations or continue to lose talented workers.
The Chicago Tribune recently published an article on companies that are doing just that – making accommodations for employees who must leave during the day, take time off, or use flex time. These companies are providing expanded insurance coverage, unlimited sick days and other innovative policies sensitive to the needs of caregivers.
Humane reasons should be sufficient for companies to care about caregiver burnout, but when they aren’t financial motivations may convince them. The Caregivers in the Workplace report by the University of California Hastings College of Law shows that Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) lawsuits are on the rise – and the majority of them win.
- FRD cases have risen 269% over the last decade – a period when federal employment discrimination cases decreased.
- Employees win 67% of the FRD cases that go to trial.
- Employees in FRD cases were awarded almost half a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements in the last decade.
While some companies find it pragmatic to make accommodations for the rising number of caregivers in order to keep a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, others lag behind. Advocacy and education will be required to expand the number of companies who realize that this problem is not going to go away, it is only going to grow and continue to impact an increasing number of their employees. Offering caregivers the support in how to manage caregiver burnout will help create excellent caregivers and skilled employees, which benefits everyone.