This is long a thing of the past thanks to relief for ‘dual duty’ caregivers

For months, from our respective vantage points in the health care system, we have been thinking about the reasons for the departure of frontline workers. According to a study published in October, 1 in 5 healthcare workers has quit or retired, and another 20 percent are considering leaving the healthcare industry entirely. At the start of the new year, we thought it was time to do something.

A serious issue that must be addressed when employers assess how to protect, retain and support healthcare workers is unpaid care responsibilities, which more than double the psychological impact on working caregivers (or “dual duty” caregivers). ARCHANGELS data shows that 43% of U.S. adults serve as unpaid caregivers, and we believe they need more resources from their employers to care for themselves and their loved ones.

An unpaid carer is a parent, guardian, or person caring for someone over the age of 18, such as an elderly parent or spouse. According to ARCHANGELS, many unpaid carers do not acknowledge their role – in their minds they are “just a son” or “a wife”. We need to acknowledge that many of our paid healthcare workers are also unpaid care workers, ignoring the dual impact of these roles. As a result, they may deny their own feelings of anxiety, depression, and exhaustion.

The reality is that caring for someone at home, at work or in the community is stressful and affects every aspect of our lives, including our willingness and ability to remain employed.

Last summer, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 70 percent of caregivers reported at least one adverse mental health symptom, including anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. For those caregivers who belonged to the “sandwich generation” – caring for children and adults – a staggering 52% reported recent serious suicidal thoughts. Can you imagine being in charge of patient care and still caring for others at home during a deadly pandemic? Healthcare workers need a break, and employers and the larger community can step in to help.

Henry Ford Health System recognizes these barriers faced by active caregivers, especially frontline workers, and has developed the award-winning CARE program, which provides all employees with resources to assist paid and unpaid caregivers. Resources are available for mental and behavioral health, family challenges, financial stress, and more.

With the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce, we believe such programs need to be scaled up. We gave our employees the opportunity to participate in ARCHANGELS’ Caregiver Intensity Index and found that nearly a third (31%) of our employees scored as either “red” or “high intensity.” ARCHANGELS data also shows that providing supportive programmes focused on the health and wellbeing of carers is an important tool in the fight against burnout. With more programs for employees to assess their level of care intensity and easily access user-friendly support, perhaps more working healthcare workers could meet their own mental health needs while supporting their loved ones, colleagues and patients.

With the rise of omicrons and a staggering labor shortage, now is the time for employers to step up and do more to support unpaid caregivers, especially dual-duty caregivers like the healthcare industry. With more resources that can recognize the intensity and complexity of employees—in many cases, they are the caretakers of work—we have an opportunity to improve work-life balance and help people feel comfortable when they need them most stay at work.

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