This is the story of one young woman.
She’s a working mom, and the primary caregiver for both her two-year-old daughter and her father who is struggling with Alzheimer’s. She works full-time as a chemist, but has no paid time off. So she is unable to take her father to surgery, because if she misses work, her entire family will suffer.
Millions of families are in the same boat as this woman, who shared her story recently when the White House convened leaders from private, public and non-profit sectors to focus on the issues facing older Americans and family caregivers, and how to improve quality of live as Americans age.
Her story could be your story. Or your co-worker’s. Or your boss’s. Our population is aging, and it’s affecting everyone. These are issues that we cannot ignore. Not in our personal or professional lives. If we do, the economic impact of the so-called “Silver Tsunami” could be crippling.
By 2030, about 20 percent of the US population will be senior citizens. According to UN estimates, by 2035, there will be 44 Americans aged 65 and older for every 100 adults between the ages of 25 and 64. Caregiving is one of the fastest growing job categories, but there aren’t enough professional caregivers equipped to meet the rising demand. And the informal care provided by the millions of family members who also work full time is costing their employers billions in lost productivity.
Because of the role Care.com plays as a the world’s largest online destination connecting families with care solutions, we were invited to participate in the White House’s Technology and Aging panel to speak about innovative solutions to meet the challenges faced by individuals, families and employers in an aging America.
Solving our senior care challenges will take an integrated effort – public and private, individual and organizational. Families need to be proactive, businesses need to develop innovative solutions, and employers need to account for the impact caregiving will have on the modern workforce.
With that in mind, here are some takeaways from the White House Council on Aging event that should resonate with individuals, care businesses and employers.
- Paid Leave for All
Paid maternity and paternity leave are the trendy topics that gain a lot of attention. But as we celebrate companies like Virgin and Johnson & Johnson for supporting working moms and dads with extended parental leave, we should not overlook the other end of the caregiving spectrum … those who care for senior loved ones. About 70 percent of family caregivers work full-time, and yet many employees don’t have access to paid leave to care for themselves, their children or a senior. Proposals like the FAMILY Act and Healthy Families Act would expand paid family and medical leave for American workers so that millions of hard-working men and women are no longer forced to choose between a paycheck and caring for an aging loved one.
5 Things You Need to Know About the FAMILY Act
- Supply and Fair Pay
The median annual pay rate for a home care worker is around $20,000. As demand for care increases in developed nations like the United States, supply of care providers is going to need to increase as well. And, if we’re to increase the supply of caregivers, then we must also address the professionalization of the care industry. Currently, nail salons are more highly regulated than day cares – and that’s just one example of the regulation gaps that present challenges to families and providers in the market for quality, reliable care. At some point each of us will be a caregiver or need a caregiver; we have to provide a livable wage and training to ensure we’re attracting quality providers to this field.
Join Care.com Members Taking the Fair Care Pledge
- Technology is Critical to Supporting Aging America
When senior care responsibilities arise, it’s often unexpected, urgent and highly emotional. Families searching for information and services call 1-800 numbers, yet their calls are going unanswered. Technology can help solve this problem. When these highly emotional senior care needs arise, convenience, usability and practicality are paramount – both for the seniors and their family caregivers. To be impactful, technologies don’t have to be designed specifically for seniors. What’s important is smart product design, practical applications that use technology to drive offline services that are greatly needed. This is where services like Care.com, Peapod and Uber can make a difference for families by helping the seniors to remain active and engaged in their local communities and giving their caregivers peace of mind.
Learn More About Care.com Workplace Solutions
- It Takes a Village to Protect a Senior
It’s especially important to educate our seniors and their families about money management and how to spot fraud as our aging population is particularly vulnerable. The first signs of dementia are usually related to poor or sudden financial expenditures, and scammers and fraudsters often target seniors, demanding high fees for services they don’t deliver or bail money for loved ones who have not been arrested.
Find Out How Employee Benefits Can Support Sandwich Generation Workers
- The Private Sector Must Act
At 50 years old, Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act are middle-aged. Social Security’s a senior citizen at 80 years old. It’s imperative that Congress reauthorize the Older Americans Act, which supports a range of home and community-based services, such as Meals on Wheels, transportation and caregiver supports. But the government can’t solve an aging America’s issues alone. We need innovative businesses to come up with smart ways to improve quality of life for seniors aging in place and for employers to commit to support the millions of Americans who balance work with caregiving responsibilities.
That’s why this week at the White House Conference on Aging we announced a new commitment to support family caregivers. Care.com has joined forces with ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create tools for employers to effectively support employees who are caregivers. Doing so is not only a benefit to these caregivers, but to their employers as well – considering that absenteeism, presenteeism and other caregiving-related issues costs American businesses tens of billions in lost productivity costs annually.
Through this partnership, ReACT and Care.com will launch an employer engagement effort to drive broad adoption of best practices and effective strategies that support employees’ caregiving responsibilities.
We were proud to be part of this national conversation on aging, and recognize our role in creating solutions to an issue we cannot afford to ignore.