Family Caregiving Demands Modernizing Leave for Caregivers, Says Latest AARP Report

Michigan Elder Law Attorney Chris Berry is a long-term care expert and understands the importance for  family caregivers.

Family caregiving must improve affordable leave options for caregivers.

A recent report from AARP argues for improving family leave for working caregivers, citing the growing population of older american, increasing numbers of family caregivers on the job, and escalating demands and stress on caregivers.

(Related: ‘Pension poachers’ blamed for backlog in approval of VA applications)

Keeping Up with the Times: Supporting Family Caregivers with Workplace Leave Policies identifies three policy solutions to ease the burden of both caregivers and employers: unpaid family and medical leave, paid family and medical leave insurance, and earned sck time.

“The aging of the population, changing workforce demographics and increasing demands on family caregivers are colliding at the expense of working caregivers,” said Lynn Feinberg, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor with the AARP Public Policy Institute and author of the report.  “Even as workforce participation and caregiving demands are increasing for caregivers, workplace policies protecting or supporting them have remained stagnant.”

(Read more: Skilled Nursing Facilities Face Harsh Reality and Financial Pressures)

Close to three out four women of prime caregiving age are in the workforce and seventy-four percent of adults with eldercare responsibilites have been in the workforce at some point in their caregiving. One in four retirees reports leaving the workforce sooner than planned to care for an ill spouse or other family member. One in five workers age 45 to 74 expects to take time off at some point in the next five years for caregiving.

The Family and Medical Leave Act limits leave for caregiving for elderly relatives to parents or spouses, effectively excluding those caring for in-laws, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. Because FMLA leave is unpaid, it is not applicable to low-income workers. Furthermore, it is unavailable to those working for small companies with fewer than 50 employees. Nearly two-thirds of workers eligible for FMLA who didn’t take it reported they couldn’t afford to take unpaid leave or were afraid of losing their job.

(Related: Long-Term Care Solutions In the U.S.)

Ultimately, Keeping Up with the Times: Supporting Family Caregivers with Workplace Leave Policies recommends a series of approaches to improve options for family caregivers, among them:

  • Expanding relationships covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act,
  • Adoption of policies at the state level that exceed current federal eligibility requirements for the FMLA,
  • Optimizing worker productivity and retention at both the federal and state level by promoting access to paid family leave insurance.,
  • Public awareness campaigns to educate workers about existing family leave policies,
  • Employer implementation of family-friendly workplace policies, e.g., caregiver support programs in the workplace, referral to supportive services in the community and flexible workplace policies,
  • Improved data collection on working caregivers with eldercare responsibilities, especially by federal agencies, and
  • Further policy research into the interaction of workplace caregiver policies and healthcare access.

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