Two out of every five adults are the family caregiver of a loved one – that’s tens of millions of family caregivers across the country. You probably know someone who is caring for an elderly mother with Alzheimer’s, or a child with autism, or a partner with cancer. You might be a family caregiver yourself.
What might surprise you, though, is that most of the people who are caring for someone at home are also working a full- or part-time job. In fact, most family caregivers (62%) are between the principal working ages of 25 and 54. Workers who are family caregivers are as common as workers with brown eyes.
They don’t have it easy. Caregiving takes a toll on their jobs and their livelihoods. In fact, a majority of caregivers (52%) feel their career is negatively impacted by their caregiving situation. And it’s more than just a belief – the impact is very real.
Their health suffers.
Caregivers have a higher incidence of major health conditions (such as depression, hypertension, and diabetes) than non-caregivers – directly as a result of the stress that comes from caregiving. And ignoring their own health (sleeping, eating, exercising, visiting a doctor) further undermines caregivers’ health. Caregiver stress can erode the immune system and actually increase susceptibility to illness. Their health care costs are 8% higher than non-caregivers.
They often have to miss work.
The hours that caregiving demands take a toll on work. Seventy-seven percent of caregivers have missed time from work. Caregivers miss an average of seven hours of work per week; and one in five miss ten or more hours of work per week. Over the course of a year, caregiving workers must take an average 9.8 days off to manage their caregiving responsibilities. And it can be hard to concentrate on the job when you are always worrying about your loved one at home: 34% of family caregivers have had difficulty focusing at work; and 39% have difficulty getting their work done on time.
They lose money.
All this missed work time does not go unnoticed by employers and negatively impacts caregivers’ income. The average income lost by caregivers each year is a whopping 33%. On top of that, caregivers also have to pay for a lot of out-of-pocket expenses for caregiving – to the tune of $10,000 a year! When you consider that caregiving responsibilities often strike people during their prime working years, the cumulative financial loss to a caregiver over time is staggering.
Sometimes they even lose their job.
Eleven percent of caregivers actually end up having to quit their job entirely in order to care for someone at home around-the-clock. If they do have to leave their job, the lost wages, pensions, and Social Security benefits over their lifetime totals more than $300,000!
Caregiving is hard work. It doesn’t make sense to make it any more difficult by not making accommodations for caregiving employees – especially when those accommodations are easy to implement and, in many cases, are already available. When forced to choose between work and family, there can be only one result, and everyone loses in that scenario.
Employees are more productive when they are better able to balance their work with their caregiving responsibilities. Minimizing their stress enables employees to be better able to fulfill the jobs for which they were hired and trained. And in a country that prides itself on its family values, doesn’t it make sense to do what’s best for the Nation’s family caregivers?