July 25, 2017
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Conversation starters: How to talk to your employer about your caregiver support needs

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
July 7, 2017
Spotlight on Seniorst

Perhaps this will sound faintly familiar to you: Caring for your dad is becoming more difficult. You're exhausted and struggling to keep up with your workload. Maybe it's impacting multiple areas of your life.

Majorities of respondents in a survey of North American working family caregivers, conducted by Home Instead, Inc., report caregiving has put a strain on multiple aspects of their lives including:

•Finances (60 percent)

•Physical and mental health (74 percent and 81 percent, respectively)

•Career (65 percent)

•Ability to manage work/life balance (83 percent)

 Not only do you like your job, you need it to pay the bills. So how do you broach the subject of family care giving without the fear that you could be jeopardizing your job?

"Do you know I am taking care of my dad? I would love to tell you a little about him and what I am doing to care for him. I am looking for ways to ensure I am always doing the best I can at work and at home."

"I hope you know how much I value my job. That's why I would like to make sure that my work is covered in the event of a family emergency. I would love to learn about any services our company has that could help me. And then, it would be great to work with you to put together a plan."

"My dad needs to spend a week in the hospital next month and I would like to be with him since I am his caregiver. I have jotted down some ideas for how I could cover my job and my work while I'm gone. Could I schedule some time to discuss this with you?"

"A flexible start time would help me so much in ensuring that my father's needs are covered before I leave for work. I believe that would help me be more productive on the job. Can I count on the company's understanding?"


Think about ways to make the most of the time you have with your boss.  It is important to suggest ideas that work for both your employer and you, and to provide an opportunity to test out your plan to make sure that it does, in fact, work.


Communication tips for employee eldercare situations 

As an employer, you may feel that your employee's personal life is just that – private. But if your staffer is a family caregiver, it could be helpful to know what they are facing.

Majorities of respondents in a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc. report caring for an older adult has put a strain on multiple aspects of their lives including:

•Finances (60 percent)

•Physical and mental health (74 percent and 81 percent, respectively)

•Career (65 percent)

•Ability to manage work-life balance (83 percent)

"You can't solve a problem if you don't know what it is," said Ellen Galinsky, senior research advisor for SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management).  Providing answers then becomes an easier proposition. "Perhaps employees have long commutes and working from home could give them flexibility to attend doctor's appointments. Or they may need to be connected to community resources they didn't know about. People so appreciate being asked by their employer what they need. The solution doesn't always need to involve money or expensive company changes. The thing that people tend to want most often is more time and flexibility."

You'll never know if you don't ask! Following, from ReACT(Respect a Caregiver's Time) and AARP, are tips on creating a supportive environment for open communication:

Straight Talk: Start by simply opening the door to the conversation. Research shows that more than one in six American employees also are caregivers, and 28 percent of those caring for an aging parent, relative or friend

report their employers are unaware of their caregiving situation.

Reframe the Conversation: Add in a question during your employee's evaluations or one-on-one meetings that discuss their responsibilities outside the office. Many times caregivers do not identify themselves as caregivers; by asking this question you are not only opening up avenues to help them, you are helping them to see they are, in fact, a caregiver.

Create an Open-Door Policy: Let your employees know you are there for them to talk about their needs. This type of support could increase employee productivity and commitment to the organization.


Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.