According to AARP, an estimated 25.5 million Americans are balancing work responsibilities with caring for a relative age 50 or older. And, the financial, physical and emotional demands of a working caregiver are taking their toll. In a June 2011 report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the 50+ adult children who work and provide care to a parent are more likely to have fair or poor health compared to those who don’t provide care for elderly relatives.
From the same MetLife report, the proportion of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years. Currently, 25% of adult children, mainly Baby Boomers, provide these types of care to a parent.
A confluence of demographic factors has led to what is arguably an elder care crisis in the U.S.,
- 74 million baby boomers (born 1946-1964) can expect to live longer
- Americans are working beyond retirement age
- Most women are working outside the home
- Smaller families means fewer siblings to share caregiving responsibilities
- Prohibitive cost of institutional care (assisted living and nursing homes)
Challenges in the Workplace
Many employers are sympathetic to their employees faced with caregiving responsibilities. Check with the Human Resources Department to find out company policies regarding caregivers. Many companies have compiled a list of resources to help caregivers: community services, support groups and counseling, as well as free or affordable legal and financial advice.
Ask your Human Resources Department for information about the Family and Medical Leave Act.
http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/ Under the FMLA, eligible workers are entitled to 12 weeks per
12-month period of unpaid leave for family caregiving without the loss of job security or health benefits.
You should be upfront with your supervisor about your role as caregiver. Susan Hackley of Harvard Law School recommends the following three talking points when meeting with your boss:
1) Share your situation and explain you can do your job while caring for your family
2) Remind the boss that you are committed to your job and want to be honest
3) Describe the problem, suggest solution – working from home, leaving early and
making up the time, taking a paid or unpaid leave. Invite your boss to discuss his/her concerns.
However, some companies may be less flexible and supportive. If there are no formal policies at your company, the question becomes — should you approach your supervisor to discuss your role as a caregiver? Many working caregivers are reluctant to discuss their caregiving responsibilities because they believe they will suffer professionally, such as being overlooked for promotion, not being assigned high visibility projects, or experience resentment from younger colleagues without children or elderly parents who can’t identify with your daily challenge of balancing work and caregiving. They’re wondering why you just can’t hire someone!!
Whether to tell your boss about your caregiving responsibilities can be a difficult decision to make. It’s certainly easier to be up front and honest with your supervisor rather than suffering the enormous stress of living “a secret life.”
When you sit down with your boss to discuss alternatives, be certain to discuss the option to telecommute one or two days a week. As prices of office equipment and software continue to decrease, more and more Americans already have everything they need to establish a home office — a computer, 4-1 color printer (print, copy, scan & fax) and a smart phone.