Sheri Snelling writes an insightful piece on the current face of elder caregiving in the work place:
“Here is what we know today: 7 out of 10 caregivers work full or part-time and represent more than 15 percent of our entire U.S. labor force. We also know over the coming years our society faces a longevity silver tsunami where we are all living longer and more baby boomers are holding onto their jobs, putting off retirement while simultaneously caring for aging parents and spouses. And it isn’t just a boomer issue — Pew Researchrecently reported 42 percent of the younger Gen Xers are Sandwich Generation caregivers than their baby boomer counterparts (33%). All this has created an evolution at work — one where workers are more concerned about elder care than child care.
A challenging aspect for working caregivers and their employers is that caring for an older parent or ill spouse is not a joyful event; you don’t come to work with smiles and stories like you would if you were pregnant or just became a grandparent for the first time. In addition, in an era where the economy remains on life support, many employees are concerned about identifying themselves as caregivers, fearful for their job security. A report by the National Alliance for caregiving found 50 percent of working caregivers are reluctant to tell their supervisor about their caregiving responsibilities. In addition, the Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s found 46 percent of female employees asked for time off for caregiving and could not get it forcing them to make a choice between elder care and employment.
There are two problems with this situation: 1) Caregiving employees are forced into the closet — mirroring the gay rights issues over the last few decades where lifestyle remained a secret out of fear of reprisal; 2) Employers who don’t hear or understand the personal lifestyle challenges facing their employees cannot be called upon to institute programs and work environments where these employees can get support to stay on the job, be productive and remain healthy, thus continuing to positively impact the company’s bottom line.” Read more…
She goes on to point out that the average elder caregiver is 50 years old, a population that will soon comprise one in four people in the workplace in the next seven years. She also fails to mention that the sandwich generation, soon to be defined by 50-year-old Gen Xers will also be caring for an unprecedented number of divorced and/or remarried elders–thus TWO plus households to manage, TWO plus financial outlooks to tend, TWO plus people to shepherd through doctor’s visits etc. Snelling points out that there are good awareness-raising initiatives happening but the prescriptive arm to that awareness is lagging. It will be interesting to see who becomes the employers of choice in the age of long-term elder care.