Sometimes we see caregivers as people who generously provide help to those in need. Sometimes, the choice to provide care isn’t that easy. Sometimes it’s an adult child who also has their own family, sometimes it involves walking away from a career, sometimes it’s even being a caregiver after leaving your day job. The backgrounds of caregivers are so diverse their needs differ as well.
A working caregiver is typically a woman in her late 40s who works a full- or part-time job while providing about 20 hours of care for a parent. The problem is growing to younger generations, 25% of all family caregivers are millenials, and 50% are under the age of 50. Caregivers more frequently report having depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, or pulmonary disease compared with non-care giving employees. The cost associated with the adverse health of caregivers vs non caregivers can negatively impact a caregiver’s career path. As a result of care-giving, workers take extended leaves of absence, reduce hours and, unfortunately, some must leave the workforce entirely. To make navigating the caregiver space even more difficult, 31% of working caregivers don’t identify as caregivers, making it harder for them to recognize the burnout associated with the role.
What working caregivers need is flexible time off, both paid and unpaid, in order to properly care for a loved one and themselves. Between working in an office and care-giving there is little time to handle the day to day tasks of life. In addition to time off, a flexible workplace is ideal as well. Not being confined to an office 40 hours a week is something employers are becoming more sensitive to. The need for flexible working arrangements is a means to support working caregivers. People often need privacy and time during regular working hours to phone care providers, to arrange for a variety of services, or to accompany their loved ones to medical appointments. Flexibility makes room for possible emergencies and better care.
Most of all, working caregivers need expert information, community referrals and areas for support. Opportunities to meet with those having the same struggles and referral information is the only way caregivers can healthily balance work and caring for someone else. These resources need to be online and preferably available through a portal for 24-hour access.
By 2026, the decline in the caregiver support ratio is projected to shift from a slow decline to a free fall in all 50 states. This is attributed to a rising demand and shrinking families to support. Creating a new community of caregivers outside of family members is becoming critical. Ahead of the Curve Washtenaw is designed to assist both traditional and non-traditional caregivers in supporting older adults in the community. This project is dedicated to making services for seniors readily available, and tools to train those who want to get involved in helping them.