Help for Caregivers of Elderly Parents In the Workplace

by | | Caregiver Support

Help for caregivers of elderly parents, and caregivers in the workplace is available through an open-course caregiver program from Pamela D. Wilson. While employee wellness programs seek to increase employee productivity and presenteeism and decrease absenteeism, many corporate wellness programs miss the caregiving component to add relevance and increase employee participation.

Traditional Employee Wellness Programs

Traditional employee wellness programs focus on costs related to complex and chronic conditions that drive health insurance premiums and costs for health care. According to an Optum Study, 87% of employers are concerned about complex conditions. Advocacy services that help employees find and coordinate care and navigate the healthcare systems are a solution. Behavioral health, substance abuse, physical exercise that links to chronic conditions, and women’s programs are traditional employee wellness programs.

With all of these areas included in traditional employee wellness programs, there is help for caregivers of elderly parents, and caregivers in the workplace, that spans all of these concerns. Help for caregivers of elderly parents is viewed as a family issue and an ancillary issue. Statistics abound about the effect of caregiver stress on the physical and behavioral health of caregivers. Caregivers in the workplace experience more significant stress than non-caregivers.

Workplace studies confirm that being a caregiver for an elderly parent results in lower workplace productivity, higher absenteeism, lower presenteeism, potential family caregiver discrimination concerns, plus the loss of highly valued employees who leave the workplace to care for elderly parents. Pairing the concept of traditional wellness programs with caregiving programs is natural for many reasons.

Employee Resource Groups for Caregivers

To about Pamela’s open course for HR employee resource groups (ERGs) for caregivers. 

The addition of caregiving programs and help for caregivers of elderly parents— estimated to be one in three employees—increases the reach to an underserved employee population. The challenge for corporations is that caregivers in the workplace may not self-identify as caregivers. Employees may see themselves as helping elderly parents and may not yet be aware that this help leads to being a caregiver.

Workplaces are Behind in Recognizing the Effect of Caring for Elderly Parents

Another finding of the Optum study is that technology used to engage employees in healthy behaviors is trending upward and is continuing to increase. The consistent driver of employee wellness program goals has and remains impacting health care claim profiles and reducing long-term healthcare costs. Healthcare insurance companies are significant partners in efforts to manage healthcare costs.

Why, then, is the effectiveness of employee wellness programs questioned? Studies like the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study are initiated to determine whether workplace wellness programs change health care costs and improve measured health behaviors. The Illinois study confirms that many employee participants in wellness programs already had a personal interest in health and wellness and that the program did not decrease health care costs or improve behaviors.

How many additional wellness program participants might be added with the addition of a caregiving program? A caregiving awareness and education program that provides help for caregivers of elderly parents might attract another employee group to participate in an employee wellness program.

Caregivers in the workplace, who see themselves as helpers, remain unaware of the risks of chronic disease until the health of elderly parents advances to a degree of severity to gain attention. What might be the effects of an awareness program about caregiving and education for caregivers if the program helped caregivers identify the health concerns of elderly parents before health concerns advanced?

The Illinois study results lead to the question of what, if anything, might increase motivation to participate in traditional employee wellness programs. How can companies implement programs that create relevance to help employees connect work and home lives to increase program participation and effectiveness?

What do caregiving and wellness programs have in common? Is involvement in traditional wellness programs in question because the employer and the employees have different priorities that may not always connect? How can the connection of caring for elderly parents and help for caregivers in the workplace become a common goal?

Synergies Between Caregiving Programs and Traditional Employee Wellness Programs

Motivation to change in all aspects of life is self-determined. Part of the difficulty in connecting present-day lifestyle habits to health and wellness programs is that chronic disease as poor health, for most individuals, seems far off into the future.

The future arrives when caregivers in the workplace become caregivers for elderly parents suffering from chronic diseases. These caregiving experiences are life-changing in many aspects.

If corporations offered caregiving programs that focused on awareness of the effects of caregiving and added advocacy skills training, does this create a synergistic partnership? How can offering caregiving programs bring the focus back to positive health habits, preventing chronic disease, self-care, and financial planning for retirement?

When one is aware of all of the aspects of caregiving—the synergies to health and wellness programs are evident. Corporations that choose to invest in caregiving programs help caregivers of elderly parents in the workplace.

Behavioral Health Concerns Exist for all Caregivers

Help for caregivers of elderly parents comes in many forms. Practical tips and tools that relate to managing daily tasks, care tasks, and coordinating with the healthcare system are proven to decrease caregiver stress and increase confidence.

Never-ending to-do lists of running errands, attending medical appointments with elderly parents, and providing hands-on care consume up to 20 or more hours a week outside of full-time employment. Caregivers become exhausted. Most caregivers in the workplace and at home feel unprepared for the roles and responsibilities associated with being a caregiver. The emotional aspects of caregiving are equally, if not more significant.

Caregivers—especially women—feel guilty about taking time off from caregiving duties for self-care. Family relationships become strained when the primary caregiver assumes the burden of care, and siblings fail to offer support. Help for caregivers of elderly parents in the way of caregiver support and becoming acquainted with other caregivers offers significant benefits.

Chronic Disease Results in Care Needs of Elderly Parents

When multiple chronic diseases increase the severity of health issues, and the frequency of medical appointments, caregivers in the workplace worry about taking time off work. Anxiety occurs when medical care tasks like preparing special diets, managing blood sugar readings and insulin, and keeping track of medications become complicated. Worry exists about making mistakes that might harm an elderly parent.

Sleepless nights result from a racing brain worried about health and medical treatments—feeling helpless and hopeless, and watching the health declines of an elderly parent. Exhaustion, tension, and frustration affect relationships with spouses, children, elderly parents, and co-workers.

Talking about the stresses of being a caregiver is difficult with others who don’t understand and who may be judgmental. Help for caregivers of elderly parents comes by meeting other caregivers in the workplace and outside of work who are empathetic and who understand the stresses involved in being a caregiver.

Caregivers who self-isolate from other family members and friends fall into deep depression—others consider suicide. Statistics confirm that caregivers suffer physical and emotional health declines and experience poorer health than the spouse or elderly parent, for whom the caregiver provides care.

Caregiving Is a Life Transition

Caregiving is a life transition that touches all lives—eventually. Talking about health issues, sick parents, and death is not a motivational subject. Being a caregiver is motivational from the aspect of witnessing elderly parents suffer, realizing the far-reaching aspects of needing care, and wanting a different life.

Help for caregivers of elderly parents comes through unexpected experiences. Caregivers discover that caring for elderly parents increases awareness of the long-term effects of poor lifestyle habits, saving for retirement, and creating an extensive care plan. Adult children with young children want to avoid transferring the burden of care down to the next generation.

While many cultures view caring for elderly parents as a responsibility, this does not mean that caregiving is without stress. As in the majority of family situations, one daughter becomes the primary caregiver.  If a daughter does not exist, a son becomes a secondary caregiver for a healthy parent.

An expectation exists that the caregiving daughter will give up a career when the time and care needs interfere with the responsibilities of a full-time job. Caregivers in the workplace who leave employment lack an understanding of the long-term significance of re-entering the workplace and the effects on retirement savings.

Women Need a Better Plan

According to a Merrill Lynch study, the average woman spends 44% of her adult life out of the workforce compared to 28% for a man. Work disruptions are triggered by the need to care for children, elderly parents, and spouses. Time out of the workforce accumulates into a lifetime earning gap of $1,055,000 in retirement savings, and a lack of money to pay for care for the woman who is usually the surviving spouse.

Help for caregivers of elderly parents involves looking at family relationships and long-term financial goals. Women need a better long-term financial plan if leaving the workforce to be a caregiver is part of a marital agreement.

Husbands who usually take responsibility for family financial planning must become more aware of the idea of caring for the caregiver. Rarely considered is the answer to “what happens to the surviving spouse when all the family money is spent on care costs for the sick spouse who dies first?”

Caregiving Support Solutions Pair with Employee Wellness Programs

Increasing awareness of caregiving responsibilities and supporting caregivers in the workplace pair to increase the success of employee wellness programs. Working caregivers become more aware of the effects of chronic disease as they watch elderly parents struggle with health issues. Participating in caring for elderly parents increases the necessity to learn how to navigate care and work with the medical systems. Help for caregivers of elderly parents succeeds from having relatable programs and discussions about real-life experiences.

Caregiving support solutions offered by Pamela D Wilson offer insights into the stages of caregiving. Corporations can initiate a system of increasing caregiving awareness with online courses and virtual support. Online courses share systems and processes that Wilson used in her care management and fiduciary practice. Wilson’s role as medical power of attorney, guardian, conservator, personal representative, and trustee for her clients provides rare insights and real-life examples that serve as teachable moments.

2020, 2022 © Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved

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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