More Working Family Caregivers Are Men Than Women

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Eve Tahmincioglu
212-716-1842
eve@familiesandwork.org
@FWINews

Study Reveals Gender Surprise in Care of Ailing Parents, Spouses, Neighbors

NEW YORK, March 6, 2015—Images of an aging parent being cared for by a doting daughter are universal. But there’s more to the caregiving picture.

Although many see caregiving responsibilities as the domain of women, it turns out slightly more working men than working women provided some sort of elder care in the last five years, according to a study released today by Families and Work Institute (FWI).

The Older Adult Caregiver Study, which provides a snapshot of the caregiving issues facing both working and non-working individuals, found that two-thirds (66%) of family caregivers reported being employed while providing care in the past five years; and, among those providing care, 51% were men and 49% were women. Overall, including those who are employed and unemployed, more women in the study (65%) provided care than men (56%), but the percentage of caregivers who are working is slightly more male in this study.

“Though the difference is small, the fact that 51% of employed caregivers in the study were men is a potent reminder that providing care and a steady income is a workforce issue, not a women’s issue,” said Kenneth Matos, Senior Director of Research at the Institute.

No matter the gender, caregiving responsibilities take up a lot of time for employees who are currently providing such care.

The study, which surveyed 1,050 U.S. adults and was sponsored by Abbott, found that respondents employed full-time reported a median of:

  • 16 hours per week providing hands-on older adult care (i.e., housework, meal preparation, physical care and transportation); and
  • 6 hours per week performing other, indirect responsibilities (i.e., arranging services and providing assistance with finances).

And, unfortunately, employees don’t readily turn to their employers for help when family caregiving becomes too onerous.

Most respondents would turn to health care professionals, family or friends for information about how to provide elder care:

  • 71% elder’s doctor or health care professional;
  • 52% caregiver’s doctor or health care professional; and
  • 50% family or friends.

But few would turn to their place of work:

  • 7% Human Resource department (HR);
  • 7% Employee Assistance Program (EAP); and
  • 6% coworkers/supervisors.

“Employees can feel very isolated and may be afraid to let others know about what is going on in their home life. Some may find themselves in a caregiving closet, trying to hide their care responsibilities; the complex adjustments they make to provide care for loved ones and be successful at work; and the emotions—both good and sad—that these experiences foster,” Matos explained.

“Employees are better able to succeed at work when employers work with them to create solutions—like adjusted hours or break schedules—that integrate and fulfill both their work and personal responsibilities,” he continued. “Not every situation will have a great mutually beneficial solution, but so many more become possible when employers and employees reinvent work together.”

Indeed, employees in the study found a host of ways to adapt:

  • 50% changed their work schedules while working the same number of hours (e.g., arriving and leaving work later or changing shifts).
  • 41% worked fewer hours overall (e.g., worked fewer overtime or regular hours than they ordinarily wanted to work).
  • 33% worked from home or some other remote location.
  • 29% took a block of time off work intending to return to the same job (a “leave”).
  • 13% changed jobs or positions at their current employer.
  • 11% quit their jobs to provide full-time elder care.
  • 9% changed employers.

Today’s family caregivers overall—whether employed or not—provide a complex level of care, including helping to manage a host of health conditions.

More than three-fourths of caregivers responded that their elder had two or more chronic health conditions. And, the top chronic health conditions they manage include hearing problems (32%); diabetes (32%); memory problems, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc. (29%); and at 28% each, vision problems, stroke or hypertension, and heart disease.

While about half (49%) of the caregivers are caring for an ailing parent, others are looking after grandparents (18%), a neighbor or community member (13%) or a parent-in-law (12%), among other extended family members.

What are they doing for elders in need of care? Most caregivers are providing nutrition care for their elder, including 86% going grocery shopping, 74% cooking and preparing meals, and 38% providing oral nutrition supplements. Over three-quarters (79%) of all respondents believe proper nutrition is very important for achieving positive health outcomes for older adults.

For more information about the survey or to schedule an interview with one of Families and Work Institute’s experts, please contact Eve Tahmincioglu, Senior Communications Director at FWI, at eve@familiesandwork.org. Also, you can see the full report here.

About Families and Work Institute

The Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that studies the changing workforce, family and community. As a preeminent think tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom and provides insight and knowledge. As an action tank, FWI conducts numerous studies that put its research into action and then evaluates the results. Its purpose is to create research to live by. For more information, visit www.familiesandwork.org, like us on www.Facebook.com/FWINews and follow us on Twitter @FWINews.

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