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  • Writer's pictureSaeed

Family caregivers, our hidden warriors

Updated: Apr 10

Family caregiver alliance (FCA) defines Family Caregiving as:

Family caregiver caring for aging mother

“Any relative, partner, friend or neighbor who has a significant personal relationship with, and provides a broad range of assistance for, an older person or an adult with a chronic or disabling condition. These individuals may be primary or secondary caregivers and live with, or separately from, the person receiving care.”  

In a nutshell, "family caregiver" refers to people who care for members of their family of origin, but it also refers to people who care for their family of choice. Members of their congregation, neighbors, or close acquaintances could be among them. Family caregivers typically do not have professional training and are not compensated for their services. They usually begin caring for the elderly simply because they may not have other family members nearby or the time to provide assistance.

In fact, many people provide care for an adult family member or friend, but only a small percentage of these people identify themselves as caregivers. Often, the activities that constitute being a caretaker, such as assisting a parent in purchasing and organizing their meds or accompanying a friend to their doctor's appointments, appear to be just doing what needs to be done when someone requires assistance. Family caregiver responsibilities typically begin with taking a parent to the doctor and progress to cooking, cleaning, or bathing them over time.

In general, you are considered a family caregiver if you assist with any of the following actions:

  • Transportation to medical appointments

  • Purchasing or organizing medications

  • Monitoring their medical condition

  • Communicating with health care professionals

  • Advocating on their behalf with providers or agencies

  • Getting them in and out of beds or chairs

  • Getting them dressed

  • Bathing or showering

  • Grocery or other shopping

  • Housework

  • Preparing meals

  • Managing finances

Family caregivers play an important part in senior health care because they have the elders' confidence and are familiar with their food habits, allergies, bedtime pattern, and prescriptions. As a result, family caregivers are becoming recognized as one of three components of the healthcare system, together with professional caregivers (such as doctors and nurses) and care recipients. In addition, there are efforts underway to improve family caregiver integration into the health care team. For example, the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which has been passed in 40 states, allows patients to record their family caregiver's information on hospital records and requires hospitals to consult with caregivers about the timing of a patient's discharge from the hospital, as well as provide instructions about medical tasks they will need to handle afterward.

It is important to reiterate that, due to conventional gender stereotypes, women frequently bear the brunt of caring obligations. According to the US Bureau of Labor, 59% of caregivers are women, primarily daughters caring for aging parents. Furthermore, many family caregivers must juggle full-time employment with care responsibilities. Most businesses and governments are becoming more aware of family caregivers at work and have begun to provide benefits and certain flexibility to caregivers.

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, or to care for a family member, or to attend to the employee’s own serious medical health condition. The law applies to private employers with 50 or more employees. The FMLA also allows states to set standards that are broader than the federal law and some states have chosen to do so. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have enacted or expanded family leave permanently. 11 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington—and the District of Columbia currently offer paid family and medical leave. All state programs are funded through employee-paid payroll taxes, and some are also partially funded by employer-paid payroll taxes.

Although those improvements demonstrate progress and increased awareness of the role of family caregivers, it seems corporations and states are expanding childcare benefits to support family caregivers rather than providing caregiver-specific benefits. Employers need to recognize that there are significant differences in the workplace between people who have childcare obligations and those who have elder care responsibilities. Among these distinctions are:

  1. More caregivers: While not all employees have children, most employees have living parents, so elder care may affect more employees than childcare.

  2. Unplanned: When starting a family, most professionals consider their finances, living space, neighborhood, or even state, as well as their careers. In contrast, most eldercare is unplanned, which can affect employees' career and finances.

  3. Private: The arrival of a newborn is a joyous occasion for the staff, who exchange photos and acknowledge the achievements of the kids. Employees frequently discuss if they have to leave work early to coach their children's team or go to a school function. On the other hand, talk of eldercare is uncommon in the workplace. Workers don't discuss many health appointments, chronic or terminal sickness, or the need for assistance with dressing and bathing their elderly parents. Coworkers may notice a caregiving colleague taking time off, leaving early, or answering frequent personal calls at the office, but they don’t know why and are left to draw their own conclusions. For this reason, managers at workplace need to be trained to be able to recognize and support caregivers with flexible work hours or work from home.

  4. Unpredictable: For parents of healthy children who are hitting development milestones, childcare has some predictability. Parents know when and how often to schedule wellness checks, when and what hours their children will be in school, and when they will be on vacation. Therefore, they know when to schedule time off or backup care for their children. There is no time limit for eldercare. Family members never know when they will get the word that a family member has fallen or has been transported to the hospital. Even with a serious diagnosis, it is impossible to anticipate how or how soon a disease will proceed. As a result, working caregivers find it difficult to prepare for coverage at work or at home. While it is encouraging to see companies expanding parental leave policies into family leave policies, leave is not a solution on its own. Flexibility is critical for adult family caregivers.

  5. Grief: Having a child is about new beginnings; eldercare is about endings. Helping someone who is nearing the end of their life is difficult. Employers should be aware that your adult family caregivers are grieving long before a family member or friend dies. Employers must consider benefits that include access to support groups and mental wellbeing.

As you can see, the lack of a stand-alone support plan for our family caregivers could minimize the challenges that these employees face. As a result, we believe that there must be comprehensive and consistent national support across government agencies and the corporate sector tailored expressly for family caregivers, which should at the very least include the following:

  1. Financial assistance for caregivers to cover their expenses while caring for their loved ones. This might include a tax credit for caregivers as well as government funds to reimburse caregivers for their expenses.

  2. Flexible work hours to accommodate the unpredictability of family care.

  3. Paid family and medical leave so that caregivers can take time off to care for their family or their own serios health issues.

  4. Earned sick days are also required for working caregivers to use for short-term personal or family illness or to transport relatives to medical appointments.

  5. Policies to protect caregivers from workplace discrimination.

SimpliTend recognizes the challenges and stress that caregivers face on a daily basis and our company's mission is to raise awareness about family caregiver issues and to develop tools and applications to ease the burden of caring for our caregivers. SimpliTend mobile applications help caretakers manage and stay aware of the whereabouts of their aging loved ones in case they require assistance or simply need a reminder to take their prescription.

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