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Caring for the Carers: Supporting employees who are caring for someone with dementia


According to the World Health Organisation, around 55 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with dementia as of September 2021.  With the population aging globally, this figure is expected to more than double within the next three decades.  Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death worldwide and the second in high income countries including the US, UK and much of the Western world. It is therefore something that has touched or will touch many of our lives.

Dementia impacts not only the individual who is living with dementia but also their carers, family, friends, and society.  It can impact physically, psychologically, socially, economically and financially and the effect can be profound. Whilst many carers find it rewarding, it also requires time, patience and flexibility and a level of understanding.  Moreso, with so many caregivers of working age, many of them are trying to juggle their careers as well as their home lives and their caregiving responsibilities. This impacts primarily on women and older workers, with a recent UK study reporting that 1 in 4 working women and 1 in 8 working men over 50 having caring responsibilities.

The need to care for someone with dementia, often an elderly parent, frequently comes at the peak of an individual’s career, when many are often also juggling the conflicting needs of school age children.  This means that it can have a crucial impact on workforce retention and recruitment.  Whilst the pressures of a young family are often known and many companies are now putting in support and incentives to help young families, there is still felt to be a stigma around elder care and dementia, leading to many employees feeling unable to vocalise their difficulties in the workplace.  This results in the needs of carers in the workplace not being met.

Here are our suggestions for how HR teams and managers can help support their caregiving workforce:-

1.      Be flexible - Offer flexible or remote working options, where possible, to allow a carer to better juggle their caregiving and employment responsibilities.  Understand that they might need to make phone calls or arrange appointments during working hours or that early starts or later finishes might work better with their responsibilities at home.

2.      Signpost - Provide accessible signposting and guidance information in relation to how employees can obtain help and support, both for themselves as carers and for their loved ones.  

3.      Inform - Offer information (and possible funding) for supportive technologies such as mobility aids, emergency call equipment and independent living supports which may help people to live more independently and support carers to remain in the workplace.

4.      Educate – Train your wider workforce as to the symptoms and needs of people with dementia, the additional strains that carers might be feeling and how this might impact on them at work.

5.      Care - Consider offering emergency (or respite) care for elderly relatives and those suffering with dementia in the same way that you might provide emergency nanny or childcare for those with minor dependents.

6.      Support - Dependent on the size of your organisation, consider setting up a support group or providing a link or mentoring scheme for employees who are also carers, to provide peer to peer support and to share ideas, experiences and advice.

7.      Benefits - Ensure that carers are aware of any other benefits that are offered by the company that they might be able to utilise (EAP, concierge services, talk therapy, stress management, resilience training etc).

More needs to be done to make supporting caregivers an integral part of the workplace and allowing employees to bring their real selves to work.  Tackling this crucial and growing conundrum is not only about protecting the welfare of your valued employees but has key business benefits too.  Taking these steps to support your workforce and allow them to juggle their home and work lives will result in increased retention rates, better employee engagement and an enhanced reputation as a business; leading in turn to ease of recruitment and a higher caliber of applicants.  



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