5 Ways to Recognize & Support Working Caregivers at Your Organization

Today, more than 1 in 5 people in the U.S. is an unpaid caregiver. But people don’t often recognize themselves this way—many of us don’t view what we’re doing through a caregiving lens, but rather as the right thing to do to support those we love. It’s both.

As an example, meet Parveen. She and her husband are parents to three young children. They’ve struggled to find reliable childcare for their youngest son that meets the needs of their busy family, while accommodating their demanding work schedules.

Parveen could no longer rely on their current care situation and had used her allotted 10 days of her employer’s backup care benefit. She felt she had exhausted her options, feeling alone in her struggle and failing as a mother. This not only impacted her personally, but was impacting her ability to be present and focused at work, leading to anxiety and worry about keeping up with her work responsibilities. Luckily Parveen’s employer offered Family First as a benefit, and she connected with a Care Expert for support.

In this article we’ll explore the role of working caregivers, how to identify the caregivers around you, and offer three actionable ways to make sure the caregivers within your organization have the support and resources needed to maintain their well-being while providing caregiving support to their loved ones. Because when employees have the support they need, they feel valued and perform at their best.


Understanding the Caregiver Role

As Parveen was seeking childcare solutions, she never thought of herself as a caregiver. This is common. People often transition to caregiver roles gradually when a change occurs in their family. It could be the birth of a new child, a parent or loved one is aging, a spouse becomes ill, or a friend is struggling with addiction. The diversity of caregiving situations is vast, but ultimately being a caregiver means someone in your life needs care and you’re offering support.


The Gradual Transition to Caregiver

Recognizing others as caregivers is often a gradual process because it doesn’t typically happen overnight. It may begin with helping a family member or friend with small tasks, like grocery shopping or household chores. Over time, these responsibilities can evolve into a more significant caregiving role. It's important to acknowledge that caregiving is not always a full-time job—it can range from occasional assistance to 24/7 care. On average, caregivers 23 hours per week on caregiving. Because this range exists, it can be hard to recognize when someone has taken on this role.

In the case of Parveen, she was focusing so much time and energy trying to find a childcare solution for her youngest son, she felt she couldn’t be fully present at work or at home. She shared with her Family First Care Expert that she felt like she wasn’t doing right by her other children and her marriage was suffering. This was her “aha” moment of realization that she needed support to find childcare, but additional solutions to support her own mental health and marriage.


5 Ways to Recognize Working Caregivers

To recognize the caregivers around you look for the following signs:

1—A heightened sense of responsibility for the well-being of a loved one.

This might mean someone checking in with a loved one by phone or text every day to ensure they are well and daily tasks are complete. It could also mean daily visits, providing transportation, installing home safety measures, and more.

2—Increased time spent helping with daily tasks or healthcare-related activities.

You notice someone is assisting a loved one with medical care, medication management, running errands, cooking and cleaning, or helping a loved one with personal care tasks.

3—Emotional investment and mental stress due to caregiving responsibilities.

This person talks with doctors, care managers, home care services, attorneys, financial institutions, insurance companies, or specialists to understand and coordinate the needs of a loved one. This could take place in-person or remotely. If someone is advocating for a person in their life, whether it’s engaging in long-distance care or their next-door neighbor, they are a caregiver.

4—A shift in priorities to accommodate the needs of a loved one.

This can look like a lot of different things, but you might notice they are rearranging their schedule, lifestyle, and personal goals to ensure the comfort and well-being of others. You notice they cancel plans more frequently or prioritize the care of others over their own.

5—Impact on their professional life and work responsibilities.

They may spend unplanned time during work hours handling a crisis or making plans to help a loved one who is sick or needs extra care, or helping a loved one get the support they need. They may also take time off work to accommodate the needs of their loved one.

Recognizing working caregivers often means acknowledging the stress and emotional toll it can take. As an employer, it's essential to acknowledge these situations are often outside of an employee's control. By providing support and resources to employees you can ease the challenges caregiving presents and help them feel valued during a challenging time.

In the case of Parveen, as she engaged Family First to help, she gained confidence and peace of mind. By working with her Family First Care Expert to take action, Parveen feels more in control and feels she’s made strides with her marriage and managing stress, noting that in a short amount of time she’s established a strong foundation for the future.


Caring for Working Caregivers

Here are a few ways to support caregivers during their caregiving journey.

  • Encourage self-care. Recognizing the caregivers around you means helping them prioritize their own well-being. In fact, it's vital for caregivers to prioritize self-care. Let them know it’s okay for them to take breaks when they need to, maintain their physical and mental health, and seek support when necessary. Remind them of the old saying: "You can't pour from an empty cup."

  • Offer support and resources. Caregiving can be overwhelming, and caregivers shouldn’t have to go at it alone. There are numerous resources and organizations dedicated to supporting caregivers. These resources can provide valuable information, advice, and emotional support. By offering access to caregiver support groups, national organizations, or online communities, they can share their experiences and connect with others in similar situations. Parveen felt the mental health and stress management support she received was a great relief to her stress as she and her Family First Care Expert worked to find reliable childcare.

  • Embrace caregivers with compassion. Recognizing working caregivers isn't just about acknowledging the challenges; it's also an opportunity to foster a trusting relationship. Being a working caregiver can take a toll on an employees’ performance. When caregivers at your organization know they have benefits to help and the support of their teams, it can ease a lot of stress created by caregiving challenges.

Recognizing the more than 1 in 5 working caregivers around you can bring clarity to situations and help to determine the right steps forward to ensure everyone’s success. Plus, caregivers bring a unique set of strengths and skills that contribute to the success of a company.

“Working caregivers are often hard to identify within an employee population. They may face stigma or fear losing their jobs. Integrating caregiver strategies into DEI initiatives can help remove these barriers to create a culture of support, the first step toward helping these valuable team members.” – Alaina Melena, Family First SVP of Innovation and Strategy

It’s about acknowledging the responsibilities, emotions, and challenges that come with a caregiving role, while also understanding the role you can play to support working caregivers at your organization.

Forward thinking companies are stepping up to offer employees caregiving benefits because it’s no longer a nice-to-have benefit, but a must have-benefit. Caregiving benefits improve health outcomes, reduce absenteeism, and help retain employee talent. If your company is not offering caregiving benefits talk to your HR leader.

Member Story: Backup Childcare

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