Family caregivers struggle to balance work-life, need help on the job

Family caregivers are struggling to work while juggling caregiving responsibilities, which could threaten a large part of the workforce unless employers are more supportive, a new study reports. 

AARP and S&P Global surveyed 1,200 self-identified caregivers who work full time or part time at large U.S. companies and provide at least six hours of care each week to an adult in order “to understand caregivers’ experiences in the workplace and the significance of employer benefits for balancing work and family care obligations,” the organizations said in a press release. 

An analysis of a new study released Thursday by AARP and S&P Global “underscores the importance for employers to implement policies and benefits that are friendly and supportive of adult caregiving to retain this critical segment of employees in the workforce,” the two organizations said.

The need is critical as the nation’s population of adults ages 65 and older is projected to surpass the population of children by 2030, the organizations said.

What is a family caregiver?

AARP research has found that of the more than 48 million family caregivers nationwide, 61% are working while juggling caregiving responsibilities, including assisting with daily living activities, medical or nursing tasks, coordinating services, transportation, shopping and advocating for their loved ones. Most family caregivers provide at least 20 hours of care each week, equal to an unpaid part-time job, according to AARP. These caregivers are providing more than $600 billion in unpaid care for their loved ones, AARP has said.

“As Americans grow older, more families have more members with caregiving needs – like young children and their parents – while also holding down a job or career,” Susan Reinhard, AARP senior vice president and director of the Public Policy Institute said in a statement about the report, which was provided exclusively to USA TODAY ahead of a media briefing Thursday.

“The majority of family caregivers juggle their responsibilities for loved ones every hour of every day,” Reinhard said. “As a result, working family caregivers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of daily tasks. At AARP, we’re engaging the private sector to be sure companies big and small are thinking through possible solutions to better support their employees who are family caregivers.”

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Family caregivers “need and deserve greater support from their own employers,” Reinhard also said in a press release. “As our population ages, it’s critical that employers support family caregivers in the workforce with the policies, such as paid leave, that can ease their everyday burdens.” 

What did the study find?

An analysis of the study, “Working while caregiving: It’s complicated,” conducted in 2023 by AARP and S&P Global shows that the unpredictable nature of caregiving for an adult is among the biggest stressors that caregivers face, the organizations said.

Here are some highlights:

◾ 67% of family caregivers have difficulty balancing their jobs with caregiving duties. 

◾ 27% of working caregivers have shifted from full-time to part-time work or have reduced hours, while 16% have turned down a promotion. 

◾ 16% have stopped working entirely for a period of time – and 13% have changed employers – to meet caregiving responsibilities. 

◾ 80% of respondents agree that companies were more understanding of child care issues than adult caregiving responsibilities. Study authors said that was particularly the case among caregivers who have an under-18 child in the home and therefore have recent experience in both situations.

◾ Caregivers without children reported less satisfaction with company support than caregivers with children – 69% versus 89%, respectively. 

◾ Remote workers were more likely to feel penalized or discriminated against at work because of caregiving responsibilities compared to in-office or hybrid workers – 49% versus a combined average of 29%. Study authors said, “This may reflect employer challenges in assessing and engaging with remote employees’ work-life needs.”

◾ Among working caregivers providing more than 21 hours of care a week, 37% are experiencing significantly increased difficulty due to inflation. For those providing fewer than 10 hours of care, 25% say inflation has made providing care significantly more difficult. 

“Despite the progress observed since 2020, the latest data shows the majority of employees with adult caregiving responsibilities continue to face barriers at balancing work and caregiving obligations and need greater support from employers through enhanced benefits and policies to stay engaged in the workforce,” said Alexandra Dimitrijevic, co-chair of S&P Global Research Council in the press release. “Employers can help by paying forward-looking attention to employee needs and the demographics shift of the workforce in the coming years.” 

Some employers are making progress

Since the last joint report by AARP and S&P Global in 2020, employers, “having become attuned to the needs of working parents over the past decade and especially during the pandemic, are now moving from awareness to action in providing support for employees with adult caregiving responsibilities,” the organizations said. 

According to the new report, access to a flexible work schedule at the time of caregiving increased from 32% in 2020 to 45% in 2023. The availability of caregiving policies or benefits also increased in every category except unpaid leave. 

However, the organizations said employers can provide more support. The report identifies industry best practices that companies can take to support caregivers, including: 

◾ Offer and support flexible schedules and flexible work locations (hybrid/remote). 

◾ Offer employer-supported access to support groups, career coaching and financial advising resources. 

◾ Offer paid leave specifically for caregivers and/or flexible leave that can be used to help with caregiving duties.

◾ Host free sessions to highlight how caregiving employees can optimize employer benefits and policies, as a way to address the lack of awareness in using benefits. 

◾ Ask senior leaders to share their stories of how they have used the caregiver-supportive benefits and policies, signaling to both people managers and their teams that they are encouraged to use them.

◾ Train people managers on caregiver-inclusive managerial practices. Ensure managers are aware of caregiver-supportive benefits and policies and message their direct reports that it is safe to use them all without incurring career risk.

◾ Start or support an Employee Resource Group for parents and caregivers or create a caregiving initiative across all ERGs. 

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Federal administration offering some help

During a media briefing about the study on Thursday, Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said when it comes to caregiving, more Americans are realizing how much pressure is put on the shoulders of a few caring for their older relatives. 

“Family caregivers are providing more support and have an even harder time getting the type of rest that they need as they care for their loved ones,” Becerra said. “It’s becoming a real crisis for families in America.” 

Becerra said more families are having trouble finding the help they need or can’t afford to pay for that care or get care at a facility “and have to take care of that burden themselves.” 

Becerra said noted “the first-ever national strategy to support family caregivers, which we have been working across the board to implement. At the end of April, we took action to both improve the quality of care and strengthen support for caregivers, including those who make caregiving a profession and those who are doing the unpaid work of care at home as they support their loved one.” 

That includes final rules to nursing home staffing standards and rules to improve access to care in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program to home care services, he said. 

It also includes an executive order last April signed by President Joe Biden, which included 50 directives to federal agencies to increase access to affordable, high-quality care, and provide support to rising child care and family caregiving costs.

“It’s going to take more than an administration,” Becerra said. “It’ll take all of us; the voices of those who receive care and certainly the experience of caregivers.” 

Congressional bill could help caregivers

A bill reintroduced in January by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives could provide help in the form of a federal tax credit for eligible working family caregivers. 

AARP has been working with legislators for eight years on previous versions of the bill. But senior AARP leaders in January told USA TODAY that they believe the time is finally right for it to become law – and bring relief to many caregivers, including members of Congress.

The bill has made no progress in Congress, but it does have more Congressional co-sponsors. In January, six senators and two representatives introduced the bill. It now has 33 additional sponsors in the House for a total of 39 in both chambers.

The Credit for Caring Act, if passed, would provide financial support for individual caregivers by providing up to a $5,000 nonrefundable federal tax credit for eligible working family caregivers, that would cover 30% of qualified expenses they incurred above $2,000.

AARP representatives had no new comment regarding the status of the bill, but Reinhard during the media briefing said the act could help caregivers.

Betty Lin-Fisher is a consumer reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at blinfisher@USATODAY.com or follow her on X, Facebook, or Instagram @blinfisher. Sign up for our free The Daily Money newsletter, which will include consumer news on Fridays, here.

Originally Appeared Here

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer