More than 16% of all adults in America reported serving as unpaid caregivers to elderly or disabled adults in 2015, according to AARP’s study “Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.” The study also reported that 60% of those caregivers also hold down jobs, which means that significant portion of workers are struggling to balance work duties with the demands of care giving.
Although usually done with love, caregiving duties are often strenuous, and may include tasks such as managing multiple medications, dressing wounds, cooking food according to a special diet, giving injections and operating medical equipment. For an untrained caregiver, these duties often cause high levels of physical and emotional stress, and the cost of care can add additional financial strain.
In many cases, the stresses of caregiving affect the caregiver’s health and work performance. According to the AARP study, more than half of employed caregivers experienced at least one change in their employment situation as a result of being a caregiver, such as reducing work hours, taking a leave of absence, or receiving a warning about their performance of attendance.
That’s why UnitedHealthcare has launched Solutions for Caregivers, a program for large employers with a self-funded health plan. The program features in-person, telephonic and online resources to help caregivers save money and more effectively assist their loved ones. Some of these resources include:
· Information: The online content includes articles and videos that give tips for caring for loved ones with specific health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack and stroke.
· Marketplace: The marketplace is an online store that makes it easy for caregivers to find and purchase products and services that support their needs, such as home safety products, home-delivered meals and specialty products.
· Support: Caregivers frequently work with other family members and health care professionals to manage their loved one’s health. The Solutions for Caregivers program offers shared calendars, secure messaging and task management trackers to help ensure the care team schedule and manage care. Additionally, caregivers can seek assistance from case managers in person or by phone to help them create and follow a care plan for their loved ones.
In recognition of the growing role of family caregivers for elderly adults, many states – including New Jersey – recently passed the CARE Act. The law requires hospitals to record the name of a family caregiver when the patient is admitted for treatment, notify the caregiver when the patient is discharged, and provide in-person instructions for taking care of the patient.
As the elderly population in America continues to grow, a larger percentage of workers will likely become caregivers for their parents, which may cause increased stress among employees and reduce productivity. Employers should strongly consider providing programs that help reduce stress and support employees who are caregivers for their loved ones.