July 25, 2017
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What support you need as a working family caregiver

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
June 23, 2017

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen increased dialogue and support for women who are navigating their careers as they raise young children. But much less attention and discussion has focused on the unique challenges that come with navigating a career when caring for aging parents. Two-thirds of all caregivers are female, and many feel that they sometimes must choose between being a good employee and being a good daughter.

Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, developed the Daughters in the Workplace public education program offering free resources to help working family caregivers feel empowered to talk to their employers about their needs, while also identifying caregiving support that may be available. This program also provides information to help employers understand what their employees want and need as caregivers. Over the next several weeks we will discuss this topic in detail.

 You thought that caring for children was a challenge. They’re grown now, but you may be feeling that same work-family tug in looking after your senior loved one. You’re not alone.

Nearly 10 percent (9.7 percent) of American workers currently provide eldercare, but an estimated 31.4 percent expect to be doing so in the next five years, according to unpublished data from the 2016 National Study of the Changing Workforce (Society for Human Resource Management-SHRM).

While 78 percent of working family caregivers surveyed report receiving support in their caregiving tasks, majorities of those caring for their mothers and fathers say they are the sole or primary caregiver, according to research conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network. As one family caregiver put it, “Although you want to be with your loved one 100 percent of the time (or as much as possible), you still have to work to make ends meet in your own life. It’s hard and extremely emotional”.

Aside from adding extra hours to the day, it could be difficult to know what can realistically help you achieve the best work and family fit when caring for an aging loved one. Identifying your needs may be the first step in helping you manage your job and maintaining a quality family life as well as your own health. Studies have revealed support in the following areas to be important to working family caregivers. Perhaps these topics resonate with you:

Eldercare resources and referrals: In a Gallup study released in 2011, working caregivers of aging family members surveyed said they would most value these services:

•        Financial/legal advisors (37%),

•        Health counselors (31.5%),

•        Assisted living consultants (24.1%), and

•        Emotional counseling (15.3%)*.

According to Drew Holzapfel, ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time) convener, a significant issue facing working caregivers is often that they don’t realize the benefits they are eligible to receive from their employers, which may include an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) with access to eldercare resources. “Also, flextime can have a stigma, and working caregivers might not know they can use FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) for senior care, or they might not know how to access their EAP.” Check out what your company should offer that can help you as a family caregiver.

Access to respite care: Respite care is temporary care help when you need relief, whether it’s assistance taking a loved one to a doctor’s appointment, time away to take care of your personal business or to see your own doctor. Look to family and friends if you can, or contact a professional caregiving service such as Home Instead Senior Care to find out how they could help you.

Greater flexibility: Flexibility is important to family caregivers trying to juggle doctor appointments as well as to react to emergencies with a senior loved one. In the 2017 edition of the Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare by ReACT and AARP, the biggest workplace change noted in the past five years is that “time and flexibility are what working caregivers value most of all.” Half of 14 companies interviewed have expanded their PTO (paid time off) programs in recent years.

Time off: Seventy-eight percent of employers in the 2016 National Study of Employers by SHRM, say they provide paid or unpaid time off for employees for eldercare without jeopardizing employees’ jobs. Fifty-five percent of those who responded to the Home Instead survey say additional paid time off and flexible scheduling would help them a lot. If you need time away from work for caregiving duties, let your manager know that this is becoming an option offered increasingly by other companies. Asking for extended periods of time off may not be feasible at your job. But working with your manager and co-workers may help generate a plan that could benefit the company and others as well.

More understanding from management: 

ReACT’s Holzapfel noted that senior caregiving issues often are not accepted like child-care issues and might even be stigmatized. In fact, 26 percent who responded in the Home Instead survey report a workplace stigma with caregiving. “Teams seem more willing to make accommodations for working parents. Culturally, it’s accepted more. A mark of success will be when we start to see pictures of an elderly parent or grandparent being cared for alongside photos of children on employees’ desks.” Do what you can to get your manager and co-workers acquainted with your aging loved one and help them understand the kinds of issues you and your senior loved one are facing. And, by opening up, chances are you’ll discover you’re not the only one at your company caring for an aging loved one.


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.