September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and the focus of this year’s month-long awareness campaign is the importance of support for people living with dementia and their families. Employers can take steps to support employees who are also caregivers.
Overall, caregivers are likely to experience very high levels of stress, and those caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia face exceptional challenges.
A common caregiver challenge is the struggle to balance caregiving obligations with work responsibilities. Meanwhile, employers often have concerns about absenteeism, presenteeism and loss of productivity. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, studies show that employers that allow flexible work arrangements have been able to reduce absenteeism, foster employee loyalty, improve morale and retention, and increase productivity.
Employers and managers should keep the lines of communication open to help caregivers remain productive and healthy. Canada’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health has published guidance for employers.
Strategies to Support Working Caregivers
It is important for the employer to have a collaborative conversation to determine how it can provide support to allow an employee to stay productive while meeting the needs of a family member with health-related issues. Some strategies include:
- Offering flexible scheduling, task assignment and, if possible, work-at-home arrangements
- Demonstrating supportive behaviours that show that the organization values the employee
- Having a plan for situations when the employee has to leave suddenly or cannot come to work
- Providing the employee a private space to make calls and care arrangements
- Managing co-worker concerns and reactions
- Ensuring that the workplace culture supports overall employee well-being
- Apprising the employee of caregiver resources including what is available through the organization’s EAP, benefits, or healthy workplace plans or programs
- If appropriate, providing the employee with contact and other information about resources within the community
- Establishing regular check-ins with the employee to see how they are doing.
What if the person experiencing dementia is your employee? Leader response to dementia has some helpful strategies located here.
Additionally, providing care for a loved one with any form of dementia takes a tremendous toll on the physical and emotional health of the primary caregiver. Caregivers need to have a support network, prioritize their own well-being and work to manage stress.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada provides tips on how caregivers can take care of themselves.
The Alzheimer’s Association in the U.S. provides recommendations on how to manage caregiver stress.
Communication and utilizing the strategies above while fostering understanding and flexibility can reduce work stress for caregivers and provide an additional support network.
Thank you to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health for letting us share this helpful information with our benefits community. Contributors include Mary Ann Baynton and the Workplace Strategies team.
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