ARTICLE | BROADENING THE DEFINITION OF CARE
Breaking Through Today’s Narrow Definitions of Care
Every day, millions of people in the United States take on the role of caregiver. Caregiving is a complex and multifaceted experience that can take many forms. And every one of us has been impacted by caregiving in some way, shape or form. But even while in the throes of it, we may not have recognized it for what it was, or even called what we were doing “caregiving”. This is common, and is reflected in the way society as a whole thinks about and addresses caregiving, too.
When we say “caregiving”, what do we mean?
To some of us, caregiving is synonymous with childcare. The struggle to find affordable, stable care for young children can coincide with work schedules and demands. This is the most common caregiving scenario and one that more than half of Americans experience. Managing childcare needs presents an immense amount of logistical tasks and a heavy mental load. To address the mental health effects, productivity loss, and turnover that come along with this type of caregiving, today’s employers have responded with strong policies including generous parental leave, childcare subsidies, and back-up care solutions.
Others think of taking care of an aging parent when they hear the term “caregiving”. With an increasing number of Americans living longer, this experience is becoming more common. in their 40s find themselves caring for both their aging parents and their own children, a situation commonly referred to as the “sandwich generation.” The Department of Labor reports that women face a loss of $295,000 in lifetime earnings due to caregiving responsibilities. 15% of these caregiving costs come from caring for other adults.
But, it’s important to note that these are just two well-known examples picked from a wide array of caregiving scenarios. Countless other care scenarios are deeply hidden, leading employees to suffer in silence.
The truth is, caregiving is all of these things and so much more.
Most of our lives, especially during our working years, are lived between these two anchors of life. So much happens during this time–both routine and unexpected– that requires new types of support.
We want to highlight that yes, caregiving is childcare and eldercare. It is also…
👉 The employee in her 40s with no kids of her own, but a sibling who needs around-the-clock care due to a disability
👉 The 35-year-old with young kids and a mother-in-law facing a terminal diagnosis
👉 The new parents living in the NICU as their newborn recovers from an unexpected complication
👉 The 60-year-old caring for his wife as she recovers from a stroke
Broadening the definition of care
To address the challenges employees in these undervalued and under-resourced scenarios face, we first have to broaden our definition of caregiving.
There are millions of caregivers in the United States providing care to people of all ages and backgrounds. 70% of the working caregivers that we serve have more than one care situation happening at the same time. They face a range of challenges, from financial strain to emotional burnout, and often feel like they are struggling alone.
We all have a role to play in breaking down the narrow definitions of caregiving and advocating for better support for these caregivers. We can start by having more conversations about the diverse needs of caregivers and working together to find solutions that truly meet those needs.
This recognition has been proven to have a positive impact on several aspects of an organization. When caregivers have access to proper resources and support, they are less likely to leave their job, less likely to experience emotional and mental stress, and more likely to maintain their own physical health, especially when using ianacare, as evidenced by our recent clinical study, published in JMIR.
The study, conducted by Anthem, Inc., evaluated ianacare’s unique approach to comprehensive caregiver support using technology and human connection and found that the platform significantly impacted the experience of Anthem, Inc. associates who were also caregivers. The study surveyed associates before and after using the ianacare app for six weeks, assessing the platform’s effects on their support system, productivity, and health and well-being.
In addition, caregivers often feel burdened by stress and logistical challenges, which can lead to neglect of their own physical health. This can result in adverse health effects and higher healthcare costs for employers.
Caregiving is a critical role which props up our healthcare system, workplace, and society. It’s time that we start recognizing the full scope of the contributions and sacrifices caregivers make, and offer tangible support for the challenges they face. By broadening our definitions and developing more comprehensive solutions, we can create a world where all caregivers are supported, valued, and able to provide the best possible care to their loved ones.
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