Family caregivers are well-known for their juggling acts, between work and providing care for their loved ones. But Sally Abrahms for AARP has just released some shocking statistics from the AARP Public Policy Institute that demonstrate how many caregivers are continuing to work either full- or part-time while caring for aging loved ones.
Balancing paid employment with caregiving is the norm for most
Nearly two-thirds of family caregivers age 50 or older are working at least part-time. Fifty percent work full time in addition to their caregiving duties. And nearly half of all U.S. workers (42 percent) have provided care for an aging loved one within the past five years. That’s a shocking proportion of the workforce juggling the responsibilities of caregiving with paid employment. And it’s not easy.
More than two-thirds (68 percent) have had to make accommodations at work, such as reducing their hours, coming in late or leaving early, switching careers or leaving their jobs altogether. Sixty-four percent have either arrived late or left early to attend to caregiving responsibilities, and 17 percent have taken a leave of absence. Nineteen percent of retirees have quit their jobs due to the challenges of balancing work with caregiving.
Most caregivers have juggled employment while caring for a loved one
According to AARP’s Fact Sheet, the average caregiver in the U.S. is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and also provides about 20 hours per week in unpaid care to her aging mother for approximately five years. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of adults who provide care for an aging friend or relative have balanced caregiving responsibilities with paid employment at some point.
These juggling acts aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon. With the aging population, about half (49 percent) of the current U.S. workforce says they expect to be performing unpaid care for a loved one within the next five years.
Ethnic trends in caregiving
Elder care doesn’t affect any one ethic group more than others. Caregiving cuts across all ethnic demographics at approximately the same rates:
- African Americans – 21 percent
- Hispanics – 20 percent
- Whites – 17 percent
- Asians – 14 percent
However, low-income workers and minorities are more likely to reduce their work hours or leave the workforce altogether so they’re able to care for an elderly friend or relative.
Lack of workplace flexibility is an issue
The biggest impact appears to be the lack of workplace flexibility for employees who must care for a loved one outside of work. In fact, caregivers say they don’t have access to flexible work arrangements to help them balance these two challenging roles — and they’re more likely to say this than other workers have dependent children.
It seems the workplace is more accommodating to parents of young children than to those providing care to an aging loved one. Caregivers of aging adults report feeling less job security than those caring for young children.
The impact of this inflexibility is mostly financial. When workers (age 50 and older) leave their jobs because they aren’t getting the flexibility they need, they lose an average of $304,000 in income over a lifetime. It also results in decreased productivity, the need to replace employees, absenteeism and distractions during the workday for employers.
But should more employers implement eldercare benefit programs, many of these issues can be avoided. Eldercare programs implemented since the mid-1980’s are modeled after childcare programs, including resources and referral programs, paid leave time, flexible work arrangements and more. Implementing programs to aid the ever-growing working caregiver population can improve retention and productivity, reduce absenteeism and reduce employee stress, lowering healthcare costs while boosting profits. Still, such programs have failed to catch on as a standard among U.S. employers.
Working caregivers: Does your employer offer eldercare benefit programs? How has this helped you balance the two responsibilities? Those who don’t have access to flexible options or accommodations, how has this affected your ability to perform your job or continue employment? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.