Caregiving Blog: Digital Support Programs Prevent Caregiver Discrimination

Digital caregiver support programs offer life support to working caregivers who are treading water to keep up with caregiving responsibilities. Choosing between work and caring for elderly parents is a challenge that adult children who are working caregivers will likely face. Working caregivers feel like they are drowning while attempting to achieve a work-life caregiving balance.

A lack of support from corporations for working caregivers may mean being forced to quit a job, taking a demotion, or changing a work schedule. In workplaces without digital caregiver support programs, caregiving discrimination may exist because managers and supervisors lack sensitivity training about the stress of family caregiving.

The Impact of Caregiving Is Significant

The roles and responsibilities of caregivers increase as elderly parents, spouses, and grandparents experience more significant health declines that result in greater care needs. Caregiving responsibilities extend across all age groups. Millennials are caring for grandparents and parents. Caregivers over age 60 are caring for spouses and elderly parents. The impact of caregiving is significant on daily live.

The average time committed by caregivers each week is 20 hours outside of the workplace. Research confirms that caregivers rack up financial costs between $3-12,000 a year to help elders pay for a variety of care costs.

Employers underestimate the impact of caregiving roles and responsibilities on productivity, absenteeism, health care costs, recruiting to replace caregivers leaving the workforce, and retaining employee caregivers. Opportunities exist to address these workplace concerns and to reduce the number of caregivers being forced to quit a job to care for elders. When employers and employees work together juggling work and caregiving becomes manageable.

Digital Caregiver Support Programs

Digital caregiver support through educational videos, live or recorded webinars, specialized podcasts, consulting and other programs offer significant relief for stressed and time-pressured caregivers. Support programs provide timely information relevant to individual care situations. Twenty-four seven access affords convenience to access information when needed.

Pamela D. Wilson, with more than twenty years of expertise as a care manager and professional fiduciary, advises and supports corporations with working caregivers, organizations, and consumers by offering a suite of digital caregiver support tools. Her book, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes and her weekly radio program The Caring Generation®, complement the online digital caregiver support programs.

One Out of Six Employees Is Caring for an Elderly Loved One Over Age 65

The number of working caregivers who provide care to aging loved ones is rising. Aging population statistics confirm that family caregivers will continue to provide more complex hands-on care, including medical care. The family home is becoming the new hospital as tasks previously offered in medical settings by healthcare providers are being provided at home by caregivers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that in 2017-2018 there were 40.4 million caregivers for older adults. The majority, 58% of caregivers are women. Working caregivers average 2-3 hours per day providing or coordinating care which results in feeling that work and caregiving collide.

Juggling work and caregiving results in emotional, professional, financial stress, and health concerns.  It’s no secret that the health of caregivers suffers as the result of stress and feelings of being overwhelmed by trying to balance work-life and caregiving responsibilities.

Healthcare Workers Who Are Family Caregivers Experience Burnout

While one out of every six persons in the workforce is a family caregivers, the percentage or working caregivers rises in the healthcare field. As in most professions, a personal interest in the work is the reason for pursuing a career path in the healthcare industry.

Healthcare workers in the roles of doctor, nurse, CNA, non-medical caregiver, and therapists are caring for elderly parents and family members. Employees working in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living communities, memory care, senior recreation centers, and government positions in healthcare find themselves in similar elder care situations.

The term used for these working caregivers is “double-duty and triple-duty” caregiver. Double and triple duty means that healthcare workers caregive at work and then go home to care for elderly parents, children, and spouses.

According to the Medscape National Physician Burnout study, 44% of physicians surveyed reported feeling burned out. Fifty-percent of females and 39% of male physicians reported being exhausted. The top six specialties reporting the highest burnout were urology, neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and family medicine.

Similar burnout statistics exist in other healthcare caregiver roles. Much like the saying, the “cobbler has no shoes,” healthcare workers who are family caregivers neglect self-care. Stress results in poor health and caregiver worry about being forced to quit a job.

Family Caregivers Are Invaluable and Need Support

Digital caregiver support programs offer confidence to time-pressured working family caregivers who represent $500 billion in unpaid care. Unpaid family caregivers save costs to the healthcare system and Medicaid. If it were not for family caregivers, more elderly parents, spouses, grandparents, and loved ones would have no choice but to move to a nursing home.

For the most part, working family caregivers help elderly family members stay at home by providing caregiver support averaging 20 or more hours a week for years. Care for loved ones with memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s is very expensive and time-consuming. Caregivers accept the role and responsibilities while being afraid of making mistakes that might harm an elder.

In 2013 the value of unpaid family caregivers was $470 billion, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. This $470 billion is more than the cost of paid in-home care and more than Medicaid spending. About 45% of the $470 or about $220 million is the value of family caregiver assistance to loved ones with memory loss.

Caregiving Is An Uncomfortable Workplace Discussion

In my 20+ year career as a care manager, I managed 24-hour care for many clients whose desire was to stay at home. I served as a court-appointed guardian, medical power of attorney, financial power of attorney, a personal representative of the estate, and trustee.

The struggles and distress of family caregivers and elders are real but remain a subject that few—including corporations concerned about family responsibility discrimination—are comfortable talking about. Making caregiving a frequent discussion helps reduce the likelihood of caregiver discrimination.

Corporations who offer digital caregiver support programs help employees balance work responsibilities and caregiving demands. Less fear exists by corporations and managers about the need to identify caregivers in the workplace, who may fear to tell their supervisors about caregiving responsibilities for elderly parents.

Balancing Work Responsibilities and Caregiving Demands Is Difficult

Caregiver roles and responsibilities represent the unexpected. When changes activities of daily living or health occur for an elderly parent, the caregiver acquires news tasks. The things that caregivers do include: making phone calls from work to doctor’s offices, health insurance companies, arranging home care, calling to check on a sick, elderly parent, or coordinating activities with other family members.

These contacts can be time-intensive. What happens when a caregiver spends 1-2 hours a day on the phone at work coordinating care for an elderly parent? What happens when a working caregiver needs to leave work early or come in late to take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment? What happens when an emergency arises, and the working caregiver has to take time off for a few hours or several days?

Caregiver Discrimination

Caregiver discrimination is becoming more common as the number of caregivers in the workplace increase. Unexpected caregiving issues are the reasons that balancing work responsibilities and caregiving demands is challenging. Statistics from the well-known Harvard Business School report called The Caring Company cites family caregivers’ concerns about a lack of support from the workplace and possible caregiver discrimination.

  • Employees who spend time on the phone coordinating care experience decreases in productivity. Working caregivers fear a negative job review or being forced to quit a job.
  • Employees who come in late or leave early fear judgment from other employees and their supervisors. Caregiving responsibilities pose negative emotional impacts resulting from worry and feelings about a lack of control.
  • One-third of employees felt forced to quit a job to be a caregiver for an ill or disabled, elderly parent, spouse, grandparent, or another family member because of a lack of workplace caregiver support. Working caregivers want to do their jobs but don’t want to be viewed as less committed or irresponsible.

Workplace Family Responsibility Discrimination

Workplace family responsibility discrimination (FRD) against working caregivers is growing.  FRD is caregiver discrimination against employees based on their caregiving responsibilities. Family responsibility discrimination happens when an employer treats an employee with caregiving responsibilities based on stereotypes of how the employee may or should behave instead of basing evaluations on the employee’s performance.

FRD is relevant to childbirth and maternity leave and in situations of caring for elderly parents and loved ones.  Women who represent the majority of caregivers are most often involved in workplace family responsibility caregiver discrimination.

An example of workplace family responsibility caregiver discrimination is removing an employee from a critical project based on an assumption of being less committed due to caregiving responsibilities. Another example is failure to promote or to demote an employee who asks for time off to care for an elderly parent.

The concerns of working caregivers, as identified in the Harvard Business Study, include:

  • Caregivers perceived harmful consequences from disclosing caregiving responsibilities to their employers that included: a lack of motivation due to the removal of challenging assignments, lower salary increases, a derailed career path
  • Worries about caregiving roles and responsibilities resulted in 80% of caregivers admitting that caregiving affected their productivity, specifically their ability to perform their best work all of the time.
  • Being forced to leave a job. A third of employees who left a position reported taking care of an elder with daily living needs as a reason for leaving their job.

These concerns pose the challenge that the workplace faces in potentially identifying or discriminating against an employee who may not admit that being a caregiver affects their productivity, presenteeism, emotional state, and health. Employers may feel like they are walking a tightrope with working caregivers who are concerned about self-identifying or and using a caregiving benefit.

The Effect of Caregiving on Working Caregivers

From an employer perspective, the effect of caregiving on employees falls into five domains:

  • A decrease in productivity
  • An increase in absenteeism
  • An increase in health care costs
  • Difficulty retaining and recruiting employees
  • The emotional impact of caregivers who feel stress, overwhelmed, and unsupportive

Employer caregiver concerns link to concerns among working caregivers in these areas: emotional, professional, financial, and health.

Working Caregivers Experience Emotional, Professional, Financial and Health Concerns

Caregivers feel stressed, anxious, and sometimes depressed. Caregivers hesitate to talk about caregiving roles and responsibilities in the workplace.

When discussions occur within the caregiver’s family, the caregiver may be “shamed” for expressing concerns. Family members not involved in caregiving may not be empathetic. Caregivers in all parts of life hesitate to ask for help due to fears of being viewed as less than able—this means that caregivers overcommit and experience physical and mental health concerns.

Workplace concerns exist by working caregivers about not being viewed as dedicated, responsible, or reliable. Worries exist that co-workers may be judgmental or resentful if they have to pick up the slack of an employee caregiver who takes time off or is less productive due to distractions during working hours. Some caregivers feel so guilty that they quit their jobs, not realizing the long-term impact of trying to re-enter the workforce and the significance of lost income on their future.

Money is a concern. Worries about losing income and having to pay for the care costs of elderly parents combine to create more stress. Caregivers spend between $3,000-12,000 a year on the care of elderly parents that include medical co-pays, equipment, home repairs, home care, prescription drugs, and other costs. Worry exists about being forced to quit a job.

Health concerns for caregivers are significant. Time-pressures and family commitments lead to caregivers having poorer health than non-caregivers. Caregivers for loved ones diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease have a higher level of health concerns.

It is common for caregivers to avoid self-care due to time pressures. The effect is increased healthcare costs for employers. A lack of care results in chronic disease that has a long-term effect, eventually increasing the likelihood that the caregiver will need care.

Addressing Human Resource Management Challenges of Being Caregiver Friendly

Caregiving for an elderly loved one is something that most people will participate in at some point in their working life.  Supervisors who have no experience with caregiving for elderly parents or the responsibilities involved may be insensitive to the experiences of working employee caregivers. Caregiver discrimination lawsuits are an area of surprise for corporations.

Supervisors lacking the skills to be empathetic to working employee caregivers can receive bad press from employees that results in low morale and potential caregiver discrimination litigation. Many human resource professionals are not versed in family responsibilities discrimination which places managers and supervisors at risk of treating employees unfairly. Most of the workplace family responsibilities discriminations cases that end up in court relate to pregnancy and maternity leave, however caregiver discrimination cases for elder care are increasing.

The perception of a lack of caring by corporate leadership results in hesitation by employees to disclose caregiving responsibilities. Discomfort talking about caring for elders is a double-edged sword that makes it difficult for human resource managers to gain support from higher-level management to implement caregiver support programs.

The Loss of High-Value Employees Can Be Offset by Digital Caregiver Support Programs

 Human resource budgets in many corporations are stretched. A lack of financial resources is often the reason that corporations report a lack of caregiver support programs. In addition to working full-time, caregivers have a long list of things to do to care for elderly parents.

The Harvard study confirms:

Higher- titled managers and executives are affected by family caregiving. Employees in these positions report lower productivity and are more likely to leave positions.  The costs of employees who feel forced to leave a job and reduced productivity create sizeable and hidden costs for many employers.

When human resources departments investigate the costs of hiring, replacing lost productivity, and healthcare costs due to poor health of one high-value employee feeling forced to leave a job, the value of offering digital caregiving support tools can be realized.

Digital Caregiver Support Tools Support Human Resource Caregiving Programs

Because identifying workplace caregivers may be difficult, human resource managers may struggle with creating a caregiver friendly environment. Balancing the potential negative stigma associated with family caregiving is a concern among employees who hesitate to self-identify, especially if the route is through the human resources department.

Pamela D. Wilson offers a variety of individualized digital caregiving support programs to address working caregiver and human resource management concerns. Digital caregiving support programs provide the ability to develop best practices and create benchmarks for caregiving friendly environments.

Employee Surveys and Internal Tracking Lead to Individualized Digital Programming

For example, caregiver education and support videos hosted on the company Intranet give caregiving employees access to immediate help.  An initial confidential employee survey can identify specific areas of interest. Presentations may be created for on-site events that include employee involvement. The performances are videotaped, licensed, and placed on the company’s Intranet. Videos can also be created off-site for the same purpose.

Internal tracking identifies the number of video views, the length of the video watched, and other measurement components. These statistics and employee surveys result in identifying future subjects and programs for digital caregiving support programs.

Digital caregiver support programs presented in a program or course support working caregiver confidentiality. Online courses and programs allow working employee caregivers to opt-in to take a class with confidential participation. Courses and programs in digital form allow employees personalized access to caregiver support programs with access to asking questions and creating care plans for elderly parents and loved ones.

Other digital caregiver support programs include online recorded or live webinars featuring question and answer sessions. Podcasts may also be developed based on subject matter request. Other programs may be designed, like lunch and learn webinars, where working employee caregivers come together for support and to be with other caregivers who understand their life circumstances.

Digital Caregiver Support Programs Are the Path Forward to Create Caring Companies

With more than twenty years of experience working directly with caregiving families, the disabled, and the elderly in many situations, Pamela has the expertise and compassion to solve workplace caregiving concerns.  Her experience as a professional fiduciary and care manager is rare and valuable to the corporations and individuals she supports.

Corporations interested in learning more about designing a digital caregiving support program may contact Pamela by phone at (303) 810-1816 or complete an online contact form.

Looking For More Help? You’ll Find What You Are Looking For in The Caring Generation® Library in the Section Called Employment, Work Life Balance.

 

 

About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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