This post is the first in a three-part series in which I’ll lay out basic information about who elder caregivers are, their roles in the workplace, and how their eldercare responsibilities are affecting the workplace.  This week, I’ll provide statistics from recent research that describe caregivers and dispel some misunderstandings about them.  Next week, I’ll discuss the financial and practical effects elder caregiving is having on workers and employers.  In the last week, I’ll write about what employers are doing to mitigate the impact elder caregiving has on business and the business case showing the benefits employers receive when they educate and support family caregivers through the workplace.

By the numbers, here’s how elder care is affecting the U.S. workforce:

Elder caregiving affects a lot of workers for a long time.

    • Nearly half of all workers (42%) state that they have provided care for an elder in the past 5 years.
    • More than 1 in 6 (17%) full or part-time workers in the US report that they currently assist in the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend. This number is much higher for Hispanic, Asian, and African American workers.
    • Among current caregivers, more than 40% have children under 18 at home.
    • On average, caregiving lasts 4 years, and for 25% of all caregivers, caregiving lasts five or more years.
  • Elder caregiving takes a lot of time.
    • Caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care, on top of work and other family responsibilities.
    • Almost 25% of caregivers provide 41 or more hours of care per week.
  • Caregiving ripples into the work place.
    • Some 70% of working caregivers report difficulties at work due to their dual roles and state that they need some workplace accommodation.
    • Almost all of those (69%) experience some change in their employment, such as reduced hours, a leave of absence, workday interruptions like arrive late/leave early/extended lunch hours, or have received warnings about poor attendance or performance.
    • Other caregivers turn down promotions, choose early retirement, or give up working altogether on account of their elder care responsibilities.
  • There are working caregivers in all generations. The average age of a caregiver is 49; but about 25% of adults who take care of older people and work are between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • Men are caregivers, too. Women (mostly wives, daughters and daughters in law) are more likely to have elder caregiving responsibility, but about 40% of elder caregivers are men. 
  • Claims of workplace discrimination based on family responsibilities for elders are increasing rapidly, as much as 650% in the past ten years.

Whether we recognize it or not, eldercare responsibilities are affecting working people in all age groups – and costing US employers an estimated $33 Billion a year in lost productivity.  Next week I’ll discuss what that figure and other numbers tell us, and why elder caregivers are not getting the attention those losses justify.

The statistics I’ve cited are drawn from the following sources:

US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release “Unpaid Eldercare in the United States 2015-2016 Summary” Sept. 20, 2017 www.bls.gov

National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and American Association of Retired Persons (2015) Caregiving in the United States

Center for Work Life Law at UC Hastings, 2016 Litigation Update

Gallup-Healthways (2011) Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

AARP (2011) Valuing the Invaluable, 2011 update

Family Caregiver Alliance (2003).  Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures, published on Family Caregiver Alliance (https://www.caregiver.org)  2015 update