Caregivers in the workplace during COVID-19 need their company's support


Caregivers in the workplace during COVID-19 need their company's support

I was reading a SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management) article on the dramatic increase in employees who are caregivers asking companies for more support around resources tied to care-giving.

It’s, for me, simply a must for companies to begin to offer these resources and services.

Every day I work with families who are overwhelmed, frightened and confused about how to do the right thing for an aging parent. What’s the best community for their parent’s health and happiness? How do they navigate the paperwork, the cost, the actual move? What about Dementia care? And now what about COVID 19?

I also hear the guilt and the exhaustion in their voices. The resignation. How can they be productive at work when they are working what amounts to 2-3 jobs?

Usually these families are also care-giving to their own children as well as to their parent or parents. No one was meant to be a superhero multitasking away at a full time job, household duties, being a teacher at home (thanks COVID) and also taking in their parent/s. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE without slowly breaking into tiny pieces.

In the SHRM article (>COVID-19 Reveals the Value of Caregiving Benefits, May, 2020) they reference the mounting numbers as well as interview companies.

For instance, 61 percent of benefit managers said care-giving is a top priority for them, and 45 percent believe they are on par with similar organizations in developing benefits for caregivers, almost a quarter (22 percent) see themselves as below or well below average.

Candice Sherman, CEO of Northeast Business Group Health (NEBGH) is an employer-led coalition. “The challenges for employee caregivers have increased exponentially as a result of the risk for COVID-19 among older and vulnerable people, social distancing requirements, and 24/7 child care responsibilities," she says.

"Employers are trying to increase support for care-giving employees by providing more flexible working hours and access to expert resources, and some are providing relief funds to help with expenses.”

Melinda Gates of the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation wrote: "To safely reopen the country, healthy people need to be able to go to work, and sick people need to be able to stay home. We know that will require scaling up testing and contact tracing. We overlook that it will require scaling up care-giving solutions, too.”

She added, "It's also hard to get back to work when you're responsible for children or older adults but have nowhere to turn for safe, affordable care.”

Employees Must Get Relief

As employees begin to go back to the workplace and stay at home mandates are lifted, employers need to consider what benefits they can offer employees who might still be providing care for their loved ones. In addition those who took in a loved one because they were fearful of leaving them in a senior community or memory care center.

The SHRM article continues: "With the vast majority of Americans staying at home during the pandemic, many are not only struggling with health concerns and high stress, they are also grappling with elder care concerns, distance learning, working at home, sudden job losses/furloughs, and the death of loved ones,” says Adam Goldberg, founder and CEO at Boston-based Torchlight, a caregiver-benefits digital platform company.

“In recent weeks, we've seen a dramatic shift in the priorities and needs of families due to COVID-19 and care-giving." Lindsay Jurist-Rosner, founder and CEO of Wellthy, a New York City-based provider of employee caregiver support services.

COVID-19 had companies scrambling to update or create pandemic crisis plans, but hardly anything that had to do with how to support employee caregivers. The companies that do so will be appreciated for recognizing the massive toll care-giving takes on an employee. As our country’s population trends to the aging, it’s only going to get worse. You simply cannot ignore that some kind of benefit and support is necessary.

According the SHRM, these are the 4 most common needs being asked for:

  • Home delivery for medications and groceries.
  • Help and information concerning telehealth appointments.
  • Expert mental health resources because of anxiety.
  • How to keep aging family members safe and helping them stay engaged while in isolation.

The Number-One Need: Help Finding Skilled Nursing Facilities

Juris-Rosner noted, "We're seeing some challenges with limited rehab options and skilled nursing facilities not accepting new patients," she said. “The firm has increasingly been asked to give assistance with making funeral arrangements, as well.”

Locating expert resources who know the community in which caregivers live and can help do the legwork and paperwork would be a tremendous asset to offer employees. Which is exactly why Assisted Living Locators, as a free resource companies can provide to caregivers, makes sense.

SHRM’s 2019 Employee Benefits survey also notes these most recent upticks in need:

  • Providing employees with the names of elder care providers: 10 percent, up from 6 percent.
  • On-ramping programs for family members dealing with elder care responsibilities (includes temporary, part ­time or reduced schedule options): 6 percent, up from less than 1 percent.
  • Access to elder care services and information (e.g., geriatric counseling, assisted living assessments, in-home assessments, elder care fairs): 7 percent in 2019 but not asked in earlier surveys.
  • Employers also offered more time off for family leave in 2019 compared to 2018.
  • Family leave beyond the time required by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): 22 percent, up from 16 percent.
  • Family leave beyond state-mandated family and medical leave: 19 percent, up from 14 percent.
  • Elder care leave beyond federal FMLA leave: 13 percent, up from 10 percent.
  • Elder care leave beyond state-mandated family and medical leave: 12 percent, up from 9 percent.

The Benefits of Companies Offering Caregivers More Resources Will Pay Off

Companies know that distracted, stressed out, tired employee caregivers are not a productive ones. And make no bones about it, care-giving is part of life now as our population ages, money gets tighter, and pandemics happen. The help you give as an employer will be worth every penny, especially when you can find free resources within your communities.

Sarah Garcia is a Registered Dietitian and holds CSA and CDP certifications in aging and dementia care. As owner of Assisted Living Locators of Birmingham, Garcia helps families tackle the confusing subject of caring for seniors with compassion and honesty. She has unique experience with what is happening inside senior living communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.