Caregivers… Your Company’s Hidden Potential

He went happily along with the nurse, delighted that an activity was waiting for him just down the hall.

         Karmae Cipriotti Fahr

That was the day we moved my father into his new home, a memory care facility.  Alzheimer’s had been steadily robbing him of his identity and all that was familiar in his life.  He had become like a special needs child.  And so my life and my business were going to have to adjust to a significant change; still being my dad’s advocate, but not being involved in his day-to-day care.

You are probably thinking, “Is this an employment article?  Have I been reading a piece from a medical journal?”  This is an employment article, and I want to talk to you about an overlooked, and often underutilized segment of the workforce… the caregiver. He/she can be a hidden source of extra potential for your company.

Here are some sobering facts and figures:

Today, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds. By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.”  (Alzheimer’s Association

A majority of dementia caregivers are women (58 percent). On average, they are 54 years old—.  Employed dementia caregivers work an average of 34.9 hours per week while caregiving, and more than half (57 percent) work full time.  Still, a majority of employed caregivers struggle to balance their job and their caregiving responsibilities.”  (National Alliance for Caregiving Research Report 2017)  

In recent years, there has been great focus on the Millennials; the developing workforce. I invite you to troll the websites of your competitors.  There you will see pictures of staff happily engaging in competitive games of ping pong, socializing around the company’s coffee bar, and yes… team building exercises involving pumpkin carving contests.  Companies are concerned about retaining the latest and greatest.   But I suggest another often overlooked workforce population… the caregiver.

The caregiver population is poised to explode.  More than likely, caregivers represent a greater number in your employ than they did just 10 years ago.  You have taken great care to supply the ping pong table, coffee bar, and other Millennial perks, but what ways support your retention of the caregiver group?

The caregiver employee wants to work, and all too often financially needs to work, and would appreciate some work/life options.  In this group, you have a collective of experienced personnel who, while they have a financial need to work, can usually only put in part-time hours that offer flexibility.  This workforce wants to contribute. “Only 53% of employers offer flexible work hours/paid sick days, 32% offer paid family leave, 23% offer employee assistance programs, and 22% allow telecommuting regardless of employee caregiving burden.”  (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.)

You understand your company’s culture, and know what makes it thrive.  I am suggesting that this employee group may be an overlooked asset.  I encourage you to start company conversations focusing on new and innovative ways that they can impact your bottom-line while resolving their needed flexibility.  Could their jobs be changed to look more project based?  Could they utilize skills that have not been tapped but could also greatly contribute to your organization?

Additionally, there are very cost-effective educational initiatives that can help this employee group.  Perhaps a lunch-and-learn from the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.  Maybe coffee breaks can be accompanied by YouTube type videos on a range of topics such as ways to access dementia-specific training, or guiding your loved one through the healthcare system (very challenging, having been there myself), and also how to maintain the very illusive health & well-being of the caregiver.  (National Alliance for Caregiving & National Alliance for Caregiving Research Report 2017)

Juggling employment and caregiving is a 24-hour a day, 7 day-a-week situation.  By investing in this special population, you are addressing their real needs, and very possibly ensuring better productivity and retention for your business.  This is a win-win for all involved.

Contributed by the Partner of The Fahr Group, Karmae Cipriotti Fahr

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