By MICHAEL DUKE
For the Times-Herald Newspapers
Fifty percent of female caregivers feel they must be good employees and good daughters at the same time, according to a survey conducted by a company that provides in-home care for the elderly.
The survey — conducted by Home instead Inc., to which 1,000 middle-aged working female caregivers responded — also concludes 25 percent of working female caregivers believes there is a workplace stigma directed toward them, and 23 percent of women report their employer is insensitive to their responsibilities as caregivers.
Jeanne Merchant, president and franchise owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving southeast Michigan, said that while society has made great strides in supporting working parents with young children, it has not yet adopted that same sentiment when it comes to working adults with aging parents.
“For workers with young children, everyone understands that the key to retaining good employees is to support them in times of need,” Merchant said. “For some reason, that doesn’t yet extend to taking care of an aging parent.”
In an attempt to educate employers on how to create a better work environment for family caregivers, Home Instead Senior Care Network has launched a new public education program called Daughters in the Workplace.
The website — DaughtersintheWorkplace.com — launched in June, offers free resources to help working caregivers feel empowered to have healthy dialogues with their employers, and to be aware of their options for support outside of the workplace with taking care of their aging parents.
Along with helping employees, the Daughters in the Workplace program aims to assist employers as well, on how to offer support to employees, implement flexible work policies and identify signs that their workers are struggling and need help.
Having to balance work duties with their duties as caregivers can cause stress among workers — women in particular. According to Home Instead’s survey, 91 percent of female caregivers report having to make sacrifices at work in order to aid an aging parent. Some of these sacrifices include switching from full-time to part-time, taking paid time off and turning down promotions.
Employers should notice when their workers seem stressed and fatigued, Merchant said, as it could be due to the mounting pressure of being a caregiver.
“You can tell when they are tired or even when they are feeling guilty because they just are being pulled in so many directions,” Merchant said.
The Daughters in the Workplace program also highlights the benefits working family caregivers have available to them, such as the Family Medical Leave Act and the Employee Assistance Program, which assists employees with personal problems that may affect job productivity.
Aside from implementing employee benefit programs, companies also can contact senior care companies, such as Home Instead, to assist their employees, Merchant said.
“Quite often, employers will reach out to a company like Home Instead to ask if we are someone they can refer to if they have an employee who needs help taking care of mom or dad, and of course we are,” Merchant said.