Monday, August 18, 2014

The Family Caregiver at Work

I had a conversation with a new colleague today about caregivers in the workplace. She’s an HR (Human Resources) professional and we were talking about how many people are family caregivers and are working full-time.

It’s incredibly stressful we agreed, and we agreed that HR departments or senior managers need to know the ins-and outs of caregiving simply to better manage this big workplace issue.

The conversation got me thinking.

As the Boomer Bump moves through these next eight years we do know there are more and more people who are caregiving and many of them are in the “Sandwich Generation”—those who are squeezed by caring for children or grandchildren and also for an older adult. It’s so hard.

We do give lots of props and admiration to those folks but –at work—not a lot of really practical help. A few years ago I developed a Caregiver 101 workshop that can be delivered in an hour, or even better an hour and a half and provided in workplaces for employees.

What is especially hard for caregivers at work—even though coworkers and supervisors may be sympathetic is that there is shame attached to family caregiving. Does that sound crazy? It should be crazy. But it’s a reality. Caregiving is still done in relative isolation so folks can easily have the feeling that they should be doing it better. We have the “made-for-TV-movie” mentality that shows family caregiving as such a loving, dedicated, heartfelt thing to do that family caregivers who feel like screaming, spitting or hitting are sure that they are defective. So who wants to talk about—and admit to—that.


So at work we have to head that off. For the employees sake which is a caring and right thing to do—but also for the sake of the department, team and organization. Caregiving employees cost money. A lot of money. They need time off, they are distracted, in pain, on the phone (a lot) and they get burned out. They make work mistakes and coworkers get frustrated. A good employee can go “bad” after just a few months of caregiving. And then everyone loses.

So if you work outside the home talk to your HR department about offering a Caregiver 101 class or a lunchtime caregivers support group. There are guidelines for groups that are facilitated and also for those that operate with no facilitator. If you are a manager or director think about bringing a caregiver workshop into your workplace and make space available for a caregiver support group—weekly or once a month. The benefits will return tenfold to the health of your good employees and to your organization as a whole.

You can contact me at for more information.

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