Why Employers Need to Expand the Definition of ‘Caregiver’
Does today’s “modern family” mean that the definition of family caregiving should be expanded? That’s the consensus of a new report from a caregiver-support program for employers and health plans.
Torchlight recently released its first annual report on the challenges facing modern caregivers, based on data from the more than 1 million employees at member organizations. Among its findings, the report documents the need for employers to take a more holistic approach to addressing the rapidly changing and expanding needs of its caregiver employees.
According to 2015 data from the National Alliance for Caregiving, 43.5 million adults provided unpaid care to a child or adult in the previous year, 20 percent of whom worked. Of that population, 70 percent reported difficulties balancing both roles. Research from AARP suggested that American caregivers spend 24 hours per week on caregiving responsibilities, and more than half of them work full-time. In its own reporting, Torchlight found that these stats may not give the full picture of the problem—as traditional caregiving is often defined as relating to a person’s disability or medical diagnosis. That could prompt some not to identify as caregivers, even though they’re challenged by significant work and home obligations—such as a working parent of a young child who is having trouble keeping up with classwork, or someone questioning whether his or her aging parent should still be driving.
In analyzing data from covered Torchlight employees, the company found that the top stressors facing caregivers of aging adults were medical issues, their own need for self-care and finances, while those caring for children were most concerned about providing them adequate attention, their social skills and their ability to learn. These ideas are compounded by evolving societal issues—as our increasingly fast-paced world, powered by technology, ramps up the stress felt by all populations. Cyberbullying, gaming addiction and the impact of social media on learning and social skills are all evolving areas affecting modern caregivers.