National Family Caregivers Month—observed and celebrated every November—is dedicated to recognizing the invaluable contributions of over 38 million individuals in the U.S. who care for their family members, friends, or neighbors1. These caregivers form a crucial support network within our healthcare system, yet generally don’t receive formal recognition or financial compensation for their efforts. That’s why we’re here to support you—the employer—in empowering your caregiving employees.
Despite their essential role, family caregivers often encounter complex and challenging circumstances as they advocate for the care and resources needed by their loved ones. However, by offering resources and benefits catered to caregivers, employers can be a source of support and appreciation for valued employees who are also devoted caregivers. Consider it one step forward to creating a workplace that truly cares.
What is a Family Caregiver?
In a clinical sense, a family caregiver refers to an individual who takes on the essential role of providing care and support to a family member or friend in need. However, in today’s society, the role of a caregiver has become increasingly prevalent and indispensable. In fact, 1 in 5 adults are caregivers1, but this percentage increases with age. For example, 54% of Americans aged 50 and older2 are considered to be caregivers, emphasizing the widespread commitment to supporting loved ones in need. Not only that, but direct care workforce (that is, healthcare professionals who provide higher-intensity care in proper healthcare facilities) is known for having one of the highest turnover rates (40-60% each year)3, indicating the growing significance of family caregiving in our communities.
The Impact of Caregivers
The impact of caregivers becomes even more apparent when considering the value of their unpaid work. In 2021, for example, the total worth of unpaid caregiving was estimated at $600 billion. For perspective, this number surpasses all out-of-pocket spending on U.S. healthcare services ($433 billion)1.
This dedication goes beyond numbers, as nearly 30% of caregivers provide more than 20 hours a week of care and roughly 20% provide more than 40 hours per week2—a second full-time job without financial remuneration. Balancing caregiving responsibilities with work and personal commitments poses an immense challenge for these individuals.
The Struggles of Caregiving
As caregiving continues to play a vital role in our society, it’s important to recognize the evolving (and often “hidden”) challenges faced by family caregivers.
The Changing Fact of Caregiving
An increasing number of Americans are taking on the responsibility of caring for multiple individuals. Around 24% of family caregivers in the U.S. now provide care to more than one person, making a significant rise from previous years1.
Beyond this, 16.6% of Americans2 care for an adult with a disability or illness, with 2.8 million caregivers providing care to a family member or friend with a cancer diagnosis3.
The Struggle to Coordinate CareAs the number of family caregivers continues to grow, so does the complexity of their responsibilities. A study revealed that 26% of caregivers face challenges in coordinating care for their loved ones1. Navigating multiple healthcare providers, treatment plans, and medical appointments can increase stress and overwhelm caregivers.
The Toll on Caregiver Health
The demanding nature of caregiving can take a toll on a caregiver’s health and well-being.
Nearly 21% of family caregivers report their health as fair to poor1. The physical and emotional strain of caregiving, combined with limited time for self-care, can lead to increased stress, fatigue, and health-related issues for the caregiver.
How Can Employers Help?
As an employer, one of the most impactful things you can do for caregiving employees is to provide essential support and understanding. From fostering open communication to offering flexibility, here are some ways your organization can empower and assist caregivers:
- Open Communication
Encourage employees to feel comfortable discussing their caregiving roles with supervisors. While some may choose to keep this aspect private, being open about it can provide context for any potential needs that might arise.
- Flexibility in Work Arrangements
Recognize that work can be done in various ways, in different locations, and at different times. Be open to discussing flexible scheduling or remote work options that can help family caregivers better balance their work and caregiving responsibilities.
- Regular Check-ins
Once an employee has shared their caregiving role, keep the lines of communication open to understand their needs. This ongoing dialogue allows for adjustments in support and expectations.
- Exploring employee benefits
Employees should make sure their family caregivers are aware of the employee benefits available to them. AccessHope offers a range of cancer support services, including the Cancer Support Team, through an employer-paid benefit. This service allows employees and caregivers to discuss demands and concerns with experienced oncology nurses from the comfort of their homes.
To learn more about AccessHope’s client resources, click here.