By Julia Cohen Sebastien
Read Part 1 of this series here.
Modern families are far from uniform. They take many different sizes and structures, often with intricate and demanding care needs. A couple may care for an adult child on the autism spectrum, or a brother looks after his sister battling breast cancer. A single woman raising young kids might also be responsible for managing the affairs of her aging parents.
Balancing these complications and responsibilities represent an enormous challenge for employees today. That’s precisely why employee benefits for family care must evolve and adapt. Let’s look at the 5 key ways we must reshape family care to make it genuinely effective for modern families.
Family care must include all members of the family
One of the core problems with family care today is its outdated focus on the needs of children and seniors. The need for support, however, is far more expansive. Today, care recipients encompass a broad spectrum to include people in all stages of life. Moreover, caregiving extends beyond age, encompassing aspects such as illness and disabilities.
To work effectively for all families, family care today must evolve and be flexible enough to address a wider variety of scenarios. After all, an employee tasked with providing day-to-day care for a spouse who has undergone surgery isn’t going to be helped by a program intended to help with child care. This expanded scope of caregiving demands a more comprehensive approach that recognizes the diverse needs across different life stages and situations.
Family care must extend to the extended family
Too often, family care is narrowly tailored to encompass only parents and children. However, many employees may feel a closer bond or greater responsibility towards a sibling, an aunt, or a cousin. This expanded network may even include close friends and chosen family members, especially within LGBTQIA communities. In fact, 15% of caregivers care for a friend, neighbor, or another non-relative.
Acknowledging and providing support for these diverse caregiving relationships is crucial. It recognizes the existence of various family structures, ultimately fostering a more supportive and inclusive environment. By embracing the diversity in family configurations and caregiving dynamics, we can set the stage for more effective and relevant family care solutions.
Family care must foster local and global connections
Many families today are dispersed across various regions and even countries. It’s not uncommon, for example, for employees to serve as emergency contacts for parents residing in a different state. This physical separation presents unique challenges for caregivers who must navigate caregiving responsibilities from afar.
Fortunately, technology has emerged as a potent tool to bridge this geographical divide. Today’s family care strategies must harness the potential of technology to address these challenges effectively. Virtual platforms, telehealth services, and online support communities have emerged as invaluable resources for remote caregivers, offering the necessary support and assistance. Leveraging technology not only can alleviate the burdens faced by caregivers but also elevate the quality of care provided to their loved ones.
Family care must go beyond back-up or physical care
In the past, family care often took the shape of back-up care, aimed at assisting employees in handling last-minute disruptions in their regular care arrangements. These benefits typically connected employees with temporary caregivers or childcare providers when an elderly parent or young child fell unexpectedly ill. However, many modern families need more than just temporary fixes. Now sustainable, consistent solutions are necessary as families contend with long-term situations, disabilities, and illnesses.
Furthermore, today’s care responsibilities encompass a broad spectrum of tasks. While physical care remains a critical component of caregiving, it represents only a fraction of the multifaceted responsibilities undertaken by caregivers, which include providing emotional support, handling administrative duties, and helping with financial and legal needs. Addressing these additional dimensions of caregiving is vital to delivering comprehensive support to employees with care responsibilities.
Family care must address DEI concerns
Family care is not just a matter of personal responsibility; it’s also a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issue. Studies reveal disparities in care based on race and ethnicity, for example, with Hispanic, Black, and Asian American dementia caregivers reporting greater care demands and less external help compared to caucasian caregivers. LGBTQIA caregivers also face unique challenges, including potential discrimination and mistreatment. Millennials, too, are increasingly taking on care roles while juggling their own careers, presenting unique challenges in managing both responsibilities.
These disparities can be further exacerbated in nontraditional families, including single-parent, single-person, or multigenerational households. It’s imperative to recognize that family care is a DEI issue and address inequities to ensure that all people with care duties receive the support they need.
The role of employers in family care
Employers have a crucial role to play in normalizing the issue of family care in employees’ lives. Open communication, peer support, and access to professional guidance are essential to destigmatize conversations around care. Fostering a culture of transparency and empathy in the workplace creates an environment where caregivers feel valued, supported, and understood, benefiting both employees and employers. We must embrace a comprehensive approach to family care that’s inclusive of all.
Additionally, recognizing the evolving landscape of family care is not merely a social responsibility but also a strategic concern for businesses and communities—supporting the well-being of our organizations and our employees also has substantive impacts on staying competitive in the hiring market, retention, productivity, and engagement.
Julia Cohen Sebastien is the Co-founder and CEO of Grayce. Follow her for the latest insights on how care is changing the future of work here.
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