Caregivers for Elderly Parents Are the New ‘Working Moms’

For companies nationwide, the adult children of elderly parents have become today’s version of the working mom.

Now companies face a new challenge when it comes to retaining valued workers. As Americans live longer, more and more are developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Their needs have become so profound that it is taking a toll on child caregivers, who are believed to make up at least 25 percent of the U.S. workforce.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) sounded an alarm about this emerging problem more than 10 years ago. In its 2003 Eldercare Survey, 25 percent of nearly 300 human resource professionals surveyed said that they provided for employees who needed time off to care for parents. But in the same survey, 94 percent admitted that they had no formal policies for doing so.

The group warned in its report that the issue of workers caring for parents eventually would “severely impact production, retention, and employee satisfaction” if not dealt with.

One Caregiver’s Story

Lisa Horowitz, CLU, ChFC, a broker and consultant in New York, states, “I have business owners and employers who are faced with the increased frequency of employees taking time off and/or being distracted during work hours with the ongoing care of elderly family members,” she said. “On the other side, I speak almost daily with clients who have elderly relatives they are trying to care for and it is causing them to call in sick, leave early, and in general, not be as productive as they could be at their work.”

Phyllis Peters, a teacher in New York who wrote the book “Untethered: A Caregiver’s Tale,” cared for five relatives, all with dementia.

Along with her mother, Peters cared for three aunts who did not have children of their own. Although she has siblings, she does not have children like they do. “I was the most available,” she told Healthline. “My boss was nice enough to let me go when I needed to. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have to make it up.”

Her book, while humorous and uplifting, comes from a very difficult experience. Working late many nights after helping her relatives during the day didn’t make for an easy life. “Then you would go home and get the calls at 2 a.m. saying, ‘We have your uncle here who was walking down the street and didn’t know who he was,’” she said.

Credit David Heitz

Posted on: January 4, 2018