Effect of Chronic Disease on Family Caregiving
The effect of chronic disease on family caregiving relationships can be is significant. Chronic disease affects elderly parents and the caregivers who provide care.
Achieving a work-life balance is challenging for many individuals who may be supporting family members with health issues. In some cases, parents or loved ones may still be relatively independent but benefit from reminders and motivation for self-management of heart disease or another condition.
Some employees who are family caregivers may be raising children, helping with grandchildren, caring for elderly parents, and experiencing health issues of their own. Investigating programs for health prevention and health management can provide support for the entire family.
What is the Effect of Chronic Disease on Family Caregivers
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But what happens in the meantime when support for chronic diseases isn’t known as an available option? What are the experiences of working family caregivers?
Family Caregiving Responsibilities Can Result in Workplace Stress and Distraction
Companies experience financial costs related to a lack of presenteeism at work. Employees worrying about care responsibilities are often distracted and inattentive to work responsibilities. An employee’s attention span wanders in favor of worry or focuses on family and personal concerns.
Other workplace challenges include lost time due to employee illness. Poor health costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year in lost productivity.
The long-term effects of family caregiving will continue to pose effects for employee retention and management staff in the coming years.
Human resource departments even today, focus on compartmentalized subject matter that includes the impact of children on working employees, the costs of employees with poor health, retirement planning, and so on to the exclusion of eldercare workplace issues.
Women Sacrifice Careers
Many women who are family caregivers take time off work to raise children or to care for their parents. Some totally opt out of the workforce for several years placing their well-being at risk during retirement years because of decreased retirement savings and lower social security payments.
The majority of caregivers report that they have no other option. The majority of older adults in nursing homes near the end of life are women without the financial resources to pay for care at home or in a retirement community.
Most women in nursing homes at end of life rely on the government program, Medicaid, to pay for their care. Is this really the path desired for women who dedicate years to being caregivers?
Impact of Chronic Disease and the Need for Self-Management
Health, good or poor, is a significant indicator of the quality of life in later years. Many companies support healthcare by offering insurance, providing options for exercise, smoking cessation, weight loss, and other ancillary services.
The missed opportunity is that few if any, companies relate health to chronic disease and becoming a care receiver or a caregiver. Education about the risks of chronic disease is lacking in the United States.
A study by the California Health Foundation confirms that healthcare providers are seeking other ways to call attention to the importance of self-management for chronic diseases. While the report attempts to distinguish between family members helping loved ones manage chronic disease from acting as a caregiver, based on the recommended actions helping a loved one with health issues places one in the role of a caregiver.
The Likelihood of Having a Chronic Disease
Forty-five percent of Americans have at least one chronic disease. If you have a diagnosis of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, a breathing condition like asthma or COPD, cancer, or mental illness you have a chronic disease.
By the time an employee reaches the age of fifty, it’s likely a diagnosis of at least one chronic disease has occurred. The stress of work and daily life contributes to chronic disease.
Employees diagnosed with chronic diseases today who care for aging parents are likely to become the care recipients of tomorrow. These same employees may struggle with their own health issues in order to remain employed.
Importance of Chronic Disease Education
If you knew today how heart disease advances and affects life forty years from now would you be more attentive to actions you might take today to change a path of poor health, illness, and care receiving? Maybe—maybe not.
If you knew today the costs of care when older, for example, that the average assisted living community costs between $60,000 to more than $100,000 a year, would you be more attentive to planning for retirement, taking good care of your health, or investigating long-term care insurance?
Because companies give little consideration to education about life-stage planning there is a significant lost opportunity to educate and support employees to think about the short and long-term effects of health, financial, and legal planning which are common components of many company benefit plans. What are companies doing to support family caregivers—very little or not enough?
Might increased education about caregiving and care receiving support employees to give more consideration to health and well-being? The medical community treats health conditions.
But in general society, there is little discussion about the long-term effects of chronic disease or what it’s like to provide or require care on a daily basis to complete simple activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, eating and reminders to take medications.
Employees Don’t Recognize Themselves as Caregivers
It is this type of ongoing daily care that takes employees out of the workplace to become full-time caregivers for aging and frail parents. Most family caregivers hide caregiving responsibilities from their employers because they don’t want to be viewed as an employee with a problem.
Many adults view themselves as “helping-out” and don’t self-identify with the term caregiver. Many employees in the human resource field have little personal experience with caregiving for elderly parents.
For this reason, caregiving may not be the focus of employee support programs although more companies are creating self-directed employee resource groups. Human resource managers also lack the skills to discuss caregiving and the related effects with employees passing through this life stage if they have no personal experience.
Company Supervisors & Caregiving
My experience at the time of the death of my mother was with a supervisor who had experienced parental caregiving issues. He was very understanding and compassionate and as a result, my loyalty to him and the company grew by leaps and bounds.
My employment experience at the time of the loss of my father and brother within the span of 12 months was very different. My supervisor at the time was cold and impersonal. Her only focus was on my career development which was challenging when grieving the loss of two immediate family members.
The reality is that employee caregivers experiencing a parent’s serious illness or death may be doing all they can to remain employed. While workplaces have different priorities, compassionate supervisors can go a long way to retaining these employees.
How Can Employers Support Working Family Caregivers?
What might employers to do support issues of caregiving? Rather than having segmented human resource or benefit programs employers should talk more about life-stage planning for raising children, helping adult children with grandchildren, experiencing health issues, caring for parents, and retirement.
By linking these aspects employees might be better aware of and prepared for the role of caregiving. The subject of caregiving should be routinely discussed so that employees in this role might feel more comfortable approaching supervisors to discuss options.
Flexible schedules for caregivers willing to make up hours missed during the workday to attend to aging parents would be beneficial. While I realize this is not always possible, having an open door policy about discussing “what if” might help employers retain employees who might otherwise opt out of the workforce to become full-time caregivers for a parent or spouse.
Employees Experience Regrets About Leaving Jobs and Careers
I know many individuals who have given up careers to care for their parents and then later regret the decision because of the challenges of becoming re-employed at a much lower position and salary.
The financial aspects are rarely considered when emotions surrounding caring for aging parents feel overwhelming. What if employers explained the long-term financial risks associated with leaving the workforce to become a caregiver?
Would this make a change in how the employee might look at working an altered schedule? Or a difference in how employers look at the value of employee caregivers?
Caring for Aging Parents is Expensive
The lack of knowledge about the role of caregiving and the related costs to employees who choose to opt-out of work is significant. Then there are aging parents who may not have saved enough in retirement to pay for their own care.
Why caregiving has not become a more significant subject for corporate attention is unknown. With the number of caregivers expected to increase substantially in the coming years, companies choosing to take a wait-and-see attitude might experience a tsunami of unexpected events. After all, no one expects to become a caregiver or a care receiver.
Looking for more resources for caregiving families or yourself, check out Pamela’s complimentary online webinar program about caring for elderly loved ones.