I just finished reading an article by John Schall, CEO of the Caregiver Action Network. This Network is the nation's leading non-profit family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age.
Schall had a lot of surprising and unfortunate things to say about those of us who are taking care of others while also trying to work a full or part time job. What makes this information very worthwhile is that we may not be in this position right now, but this may certainly be where we are at in the not too distant future as we and our family members age.
Schall says that two out of every five adults are the family caregiver of a loved one. Statistics provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance are also eye-opening and show us how this problem is escalating as numbers increase re older persons who need long term care and help with their activities of daily living. Most but not all persons in need of long-term care are elderly. Approximately 63% of persons aged 65 and older (6.3 million) need support but the remaining number - 37% - are 64 years of age and younger. Caregiver needs are only going to increase in the future as the boomers continue to age.
Many of the people who are caring for someone at home are also working a full- or part-time job, notes Schall. In fact, most family caregivers (62%) are between the principal working ages of 25 and 54. Workers who are family caregivers are as common. Many older adults who are retired are now working part-time to make ends meet and also have caregiving responsibilities.
Caregivers have a higher incidence of major health conditions (such as depression, hypertension, and diabetes) than non-caregivers – as a direct result of the stress that comes from caregiving. They often put the health of others above their own, which undermines healthy sleeping, eating, and exercising behaviors, and are also less likely to visit a doctor. Caregiver health care costs are 8% higher than non-caregivers.
Seventy-seven percent of caregivers have missed time from work - an average of seven hours of work per week; and one in five miss ten or more hours of work per week. Caregivers can also have difficulty concentrating on the job and focusing at work; and also have had difficulty getting their work completed on time.
Excessive missed work time does not go unnoticed by employers and negatively impacts caregivers’ income. The average income lost by caregivers each year is 33%. The financial impact is compounded as caregivers also have to pay an average of $10,000 each year for out-of-pocket caregiving expenses. The cumulative financial loss to a caregiver over time is enormous. And even worse, eleven percent of caregivers are forced to have to quit their job entirely in order to care for someone at home around-the-clock.
Schall’s organization along with other groups is making numerous efforts to encourage employers to address caregiver concerns so that they can help their employees be more productive as they balance their jobs with caregiving responsibilities.