Stage 2, Section 4: Help for Employed Caregivers

If you are an employed caregiver, find out what options you have for providing care while continuing to work.

Employers and Workforce Changes

More than half of all caregivers work full time. Twelve percent work part-time, and nine percent have had to quit their jobs because of caregiving. Many who quit said they would not have made that choice if flexibility in working conditions had been available. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, more and more employees will provide informal care to aging relatives and friends. Employers can help ease the crisis in caregiving by being supportive of caregivers, a growing segment of their workforce.

The U. S. Department of Labor reports that 30% of employed persons are caregivers and that 54% expect to assume that role within 10 years. Some employers may think that the percentage of their workers caring for relatives is low because some caregivers choose not to share this information until they have exhausted their sick leave and have to look at other options. These employers may not know that flexible hours combined with caregiver education and support could improve job performance and reduce employee turnover and the high cost of training new employees.

More companies are offering formal programs with resource materials, counseling, caregiver training, and other services to help caregivers. Some companies or unions have information and referral programs or even care management. Some employers provide caregiver assistance as part of Employee Assistance Programs, and some offer on-site supportive services such as adult day care centers or combination child/adult day care centers.

Talking With Your Employer

It may  be helpful to discuss your needs with your employer.  Telecommuting, flextime, job sharing, or rearranging your schedule can help minimize stress. Some companies will make special arrangements for an individual caregiver when asked, even if there are no official policies addressing caregiver issues.

You may have used up much of your sick and annual leave providing transportation to medical appointments and other care. Now you may need more time off. The 1993 National Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave a year for family caregiving without loss of job security and benefits, may be an option. Find out whether the FMLA applies to your company and whether you qualify. Sometimes even smaller companies, though not required by law, offer similar programs. Look in your personnel manual or ask the human resources department for a copy.

The 1993 National Family and Medical Leave Act does not protect gay and lesbian caregivers (or heterosexual partners who live together but are not married), but some companies extend the same benefits to unmarried domestic partners. Ask what benefits are available at your company. For more about the needs and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults and their caregivers, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance web site, for fact sheets called “LGBT Caregiving: Frequently Asked Questions” and “Legal Issues for LGBT Caregivers“.

Find out about other caregiver-friendly policies offered by your company. If there is little support for caregivers, you may want to show your employer this article and encourage your employer to consider some benefits to help working caregivers. Many of these policies would help other employees as well.

Here are some examples of caregiver-friendly policies:

  • flextime, job sharing, and allowing employees to rearrange schedules as needs arise, coming in on weekends to make up time lost to caregiving tasks, telecommuting from home, etc.
  • eldercare packages that include services such as caregiver training, care management, information about community resources and caregiver support groups, company-sponsored adult day care programs or financial aid for employees using private pay adult day care, and emergency respite care benefits for caregiving crises, etc.
  • counseling through employee assistance programs or group health insurance.
  • employee preventive health and fitness programs that include exercise, nutrition, massage, and stress reduction activities, or financial aid to help with costs of private pay health club, massage, etc.
  • flexible spending plans (cafeteria plans) for using pretax dollars to pay for medical and other allowable costs associated with caregiving.
  • long-term care insurance provided by employer or for offered at group rates for employee purchase.