balanced with our roles as intergenerational caregivers. Both these roles have become incredibly strained in the challenges of COVID and racial injustice.
Caregiving is a complex web that brings together cultural beliefs about our roles at home, our views of our responsibility in families and our own balance and boundaries on how we can stay whole while managing work and life.
We also know that family caregiving is often silent, viewed as just part of what we do as family, with many of us not even identifying as “caregivers”.
That said, the data show us that many women, especially women of color, and millennials are now filling a gap in the care system while also struggling to stay at work. Without care at home, and services to help navigate the complexities of care, it would be impossible for work and life to come into balance.
As we work toward reimagining a future of work, while also reimagining our healthcare system, we know we can more equitably support caregivers and their families, and enable them to thrive. But first, we need to acknowledge what we are seeing, what can be improved, and how we can get to resources quickly.
In honor of National Caregivers Day, together with our NationSwell network, we have assembled valuable insights, quotes and matching resources to help dissect the many challenges and facets of caregiving
Insight #1: Better awareness is needed in the workplace so that we can all understand caregiving as a universal experience that we will likely all face as we get older.
“Caregiving– once one of the most personal and private matters in family life – is a growing public issue. The costs of caregiving impact individual workers, employers and society as a whole,” Jean C. Accius, Senior Vice President AARP Global Thought Leadership, said. “When it becomes stressful to juggle caregiving activities with work and other family responsibilities, or if work requirements come into conflict with caregiving tasks, some employed caregivers make changes in their work life, including leaving the labor force altogether, resulting in loss income at the individual level, loss productivity that impact the bottom line for employers and we all suffer due to the loss of opportunities for economic growth. As the nation faces unprecedented economic challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is a critical time to consider support for working family caregivers as part of a larger strategy for economic recovery and growth.”
- Helping Employers Support and Retain Working Caregivers
- The Caring Company: How Employers Can Cut Costs And Boost Productivity By Helping Employees Manage Caregiving Needs
- Irregular Work Scheduling and Its Consequences
Insight #2: Whether you are a new caregiver or supporting a loved one through a later stage challenge, trusted tools can help caregivers navigate the system to get the support that they need.
“There are so many resources for different groups, people just don’t know where to access them or need a ‘coach’ to find the right resources,” Jenn Wolff, a community organizer, said. “That’s why I’m currently working on a new virtual space to share resources for people with disabilities and would like to have several others trained to be Community Health Workers so folks can talk with someone they relate to”
Insight #3: Caregivers need to remember the importance of caring for themselves in addition to their loved ones, and they should recruit help in their ongoing effort.
“Self-care is not something to put off or see as a luxury, it is an essential part of survival.” Elissa Yancey, author and co-founder of A Picture’s Worth, said. “Believing, truly believing, that you are worth taking care of is, in itself, a revelation for many caregivers. Especially those of us who define ourselves, consciously or not, by our value to others. Without a grounding in self-worth, your caregiver duties can become an excuse for self-pity and resentment, neither of which are deserving of your precious time.”
Insight #4: Caregiving and balancing work requires a support system for the family caregiver and the person in need. Employer benefits are key; but home health agencies and community-based organizations who bring care home are often missed as part of our system. We need them when caring for our loved ones.
“Getting out of homes right now is tough for any of us, but it’s even harder for the folks that we care for,” Paurvi Bhatt, President of Medtronic Foundation and NationSwell Council member, said.
Insight #5: Embrace hospice care.
“End of life is a part of life that we don’t talk enough about.. and it’s easy to forget about hospice care as a critical part of our healthcare system,” Adam Dole, Managing Director of Not Impossible Labs, said. “When my father-in-law recently passed away, I had a really positive experience with hospice — it was a night and day difference for me, in terms of what the end-of-life experience can mean when it’s done right, proactively with dignity and thoughtfulness, versus left to chance.”
Insight #6: We need to have end-of-life conversations with our loved ones (and for ourselves) when they are theoretical, rather than pressing.
“Planning ahead helps caregivers so much,” Dr. Lori Choi, a vascular surgeon and founder of I’ll Have What She’s Having it, said. “It relieves so much of the guilt and pressure, and lets us respect our loved ones’ wishes.”
Insight #7: Many people do not even know that they are caregivers. How do we define “caregiver” today, and how do we change the image of caregivers to be a more accurate representation?
“I do believe people need to know this work is so noble, so compassionate – perhaps the most important role we’ll ever have,” Zach Weismann, founder of MAG Impact Collective, said.
Paurvi Bhatt is President of Medtronic Foundation. Zach Weisman is co-founder and CEO of MAG Impact Collective. This article was written in cooperation with members of the NationSwell Council.