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Helping Your Workers Care for Aging Parents

As the costs of nursing homes and assisted living services soar, the financial burden of paying for those services often falls on the elderly individual’s adult children.

Many families cannot afford these services, so they are opting for their ageing parent to live with them. Unfortunately, as those parents get older and need more care, it can take a toll on their adult children and has forced many of them to quit their jobs and take care of their parents full time.

A recent survey by Unum Insurance Company found that 39% of caregivers end up quitting their jobs to take care of their sick or ageing family members. They are forced to quit because their employers did not accommodate their disrupted work schedule.

Unum’s survey found that:

  • 18% of working adults are primary caregivers for sick and elderly loved ones.
  • 25% of caregivers are millennials.
  • The average age of caregivers is 40.
  • With the job market tightening, it is wise to consider offering voluntary caregiving benefits to your staff. Studies have shown that people who juggle work and caregiving responsibilities have a higher likelihood of developing chronic health conditions.

That translates into higher health care insurance spending for their employer. Increased stress also lowers employee productivity by almost 20%, and can cost companies thousands of dollars.

For some, caregiving is akin to a second job. The 2017 “Family Caregiver Journey Report,” published by, surveyed 2,767 family caregivers of older adults and found:

  • 38% of respondents spend more than 30 hours per week on caregiving.
  • 68% said their caregiving duties have had a negative impact on their job.
  • 55% had missed one or more weeks of work.
  • 31% often arrived late or had to leave early.
  • 44% spend $5,000 or more per year on caregiving expenses.

What you can do

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act entitles workers to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for qualified family and medical reasons, including caregiving. But many people are reluctant to take advantage of those rights because the leave is unpaid.

It pays for employers to be more flexible. The Unum survey found that absent employees cost the U.S. economy around $25.2 billion a year. You can reduce any fallout on your business by working with your employees.

Now, an increasing number of companies offer paid and/or unpaid leave for caregiving beyond what’s required by the FMLA. They may include benefits such as:

  • Flexible work arrangements,
  • Information resources and referrals, and
  • Emergency backup care.

The most common complaint by caregivers is that they just want their employer to be flexible. They don’t always need a full day off to take care of someone. Sometimes, they need a few hours to get away to assist them or drive them to a doctor’s appointment.

Flexible work arrangements could also include allowing them to do work from home in some capacity part of the week. Another option is flexible time. So if they have to leave for three hours during the day, they can come in early and/or stay late to make up for the lost time.

The key is working with your employees to find a way to accommodate their needs while still keeping them in their job and allowing them to be productive. If you decide to offer some assistance, you should meet with employees who are currently caring for elderly parents to find a solution that works for both of you.

You may also want to consider allowing staff to use sick time to care for family members.