How Employers Can Support Employees Who are Caring for Aging Parents

Providing employee benefits and support is standard practice for most companies when it comes to caring for a newborn infant or tending to an ailing child. However, many employees have caregiving responsibilities beyond just the needs of their children. In fact, it was reported in Canada in 2018 that 1 in 4 people over the age of fifteen were providing care for a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or challenges related to aging. This means that more than eight million Canadians are acting as family caregivers – mainly for aging parents or relatives. 

With the average age of the Canadian population continually on the rise, this need for family caregivers is only going to increase moving forward. Providing care for an elderly loved one can be extremely demanding and time-consuming. So, how do family caregivers manage this responsibility, along with the rest of their daily home and work obligations, and not get burnt out or worse? 

Employer Support for Family Caregivers 

There are currently no laws determining how companies, large or small, assist employees who have elder care responsibilities. It is up to the employer’s discretion as to what level of support and assistance they wish to provide. Many forward-thinking employers are already offering extra support for caregivers caring for an aging family member to help improve workplace health and contentment. 

Some of these supportive actions and practices to assist family caregivers on staff include: 

  • Discussing employee challenges and needs 
  • Calculating expenses and time allocated 
  • Identifying available resources 
  • Establish a realistic work/life balance 
  • Offer flexible schedule options 
  • Adjust workplace policies to optimize productivity 

Employee Needs and Challenges 

There really is no better way to determine the requirements and issues faced by your employees than through communication. Employees providing care for an elderly parent or grandparent may even be exhibiting outwards signs of stress if the situation has become overwhelming. A couple of telling signs include perpetual tardiness and routinely seeming distracted or preoccupied. 

Before it gets to this stage however, employers can take action to optimize employee health and wellness. Research and surveys can help identify employee demographics to aid in the development of applicable strategies and the provision of suitable benefits. This all contributes to greater awareness of caregivers in the workplace and gives employees a platform to make their challenges known. The result is advantageous for all involved with employees are getting the support they need in improving task focus and productivity while reducing illness and time away from work. 

Calculating Costs  

It is not easy to identify all the time, effort, and expenses that go into providing care for aging parents.  Employers or managers can sit down with individual employees to get a better sense of what their caregiving responsibilities consist of. Determining these details helps provide a deeper understanding to make appropriate resources available. Managers providing care for elderly loved ones can act as positive role models to help eliminate the stigma of taking advantage of valuable employee benefits.  

Identifying Available Resources 

Making caregiver resources available in the workplace helps establish a care culture to continually address employees’ dynamic needs for better employee retention. If employees do not feel comfortable discussing their caregiver needs it can create an unhealthy cycle. Employees do not speak up about their issues, and employers assume that all is well and see no reason to offer caregiver benefits.  

Employers can develop an inclusive culture in the workplace by making resources more readily available, inviting experts and service providers to speak to the group, and extending benefit plans to include elderly care. 

Work/Life Balance 

For the most part, an employee career path is a long journey that tends to include several milestones and challenges along the way. Companies that strive to build a caring culture in the workplace can plan to anticipate common challenges and offer practical solutions. Employers can proactively implement strategies to accommodate and support these predictable situations as well as any unexpected complications that may arise. 

Assisting employees in attaining a comfortable work/life balance is beneficial to the overall productivity of the company. 

Flexible Options 

Each employee will have a unique blend of needs and preferences, so offering flexible opportunities is the best way to accommodate this range. These options include: 

  • Flexible work hours 
  • Opportunities for remote work 
  • Ability to reduce workload to part-time if necessary 
  • Task sharing possibilities 
  • Parental leave, personal leave, caregiver leave 
  • Caregiver support groups and referral services 
  • Counselling services 
  • Increasing caregiver educational opportunities 
  • On-site child and elderly care services 
  • Subsidies for child and elderly care services 

Workplace Policies for Optimal Productivity 

By investing time and resources into employee needs, companies can establish a work environment that maximizes employee productivity as well as job satisfaction. This often takes a trial-and-error approach until the desired balance is achieved.  

One thing is for certain, as the population in Canada continues to age, the requirement for caregiver support and benefits in the workplace is only going to increase. Adopting an effective strategy with an employee centric approach helps improve productivity, employee health and safety, and employee retention. Ignoring these growing concerns can result in an unsupportive work environment, employee burnout, and a high turnover rate. 

Promyse Home Care is a locally owned, non-franchised home care agency here in the Waterloo Region.