Many people may not realize it, but caregiving is a large part of the world’s workforce. Almost one in five full-time workers also double as family caregivers for elderly, sick, disabled, or injured loved ones. These employees spend an average of 23.7 hours a week caring for a relative, according to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers.
The definition of a caregiver varies widely and the exact duties depend on a person’s needs, but some typical tasks include following doctor’s orders regarding medication, food restrictions or exercise routines; cooking and cleaning; driving or escorting clients to appointments or social activities; assisting with bathing and grooming; and monitoring changes in health or behavior. Other caregivers, such as home health aides (HHA), have more advanced training and can administer medication or provide advice and guidance to patients.
A career as a caregiver provides opportunities for personal fulfillment, and often teaches people to see the world through another’s eyes. It also offers the chance to connect in a meaningful way with people, something that is particularly important for many seniors. Having regular human contact can make a huge difference in the health and wellbeing of isolated individuals.
Those interested in becoming a caregiver can find several programs at local community colleges or vocational schools, or take online courses through companies like CareLink, which offers both in-person and virtual HHA training programs in New York City. Once a person is certified as an HHA, they can seek out private caregiving jobs or apply to work at a home health agency.
Some employers offer caregivers flex-time, which lets them adjust their schedule to accommodate daytime doctor or physical therapy appointments for their clients. Other employers allow employees to donate vacation or sick time to coworkers who need it for caregiving purposes, but Kuahiwinui says only 10 percent of employers offer this option because it is challenging to administer. Job-sharing, where two people perform the same role but are paid at different rates for their time on the clock, is another option.
Despite the fact that this segment of the workforce is large, most employee caregivers don’t receive any help from their employers when it comes to balancing work and caregiving responsibilities. That’s because federal law doesn’t require companies to accommodate employees who need time off for caregiving responsibilities, and only some states offer protections for their workers. A recent survey from AARP found that employee caregivers lose an average of 6.6 days of pay a year due to caregiving responsibilities, and 1 in 3 suffer from clinical depression or anxiety as a result of working so much. This is a major concern because the emotional stress of caregiving can cause some people to quit their jobs, and some even leave the workforce altogether. caregiver jobs