Albany—Governor Kathy Hochul announced yesterday an initiative to raise awareness of unpaid working caregivers and the statewide resources available to help them. In recognition of National Family Caregivers Month
“In addition to making historic investments to expand our long-term care workforce, I am excited to be giving back to the more than four million unpaid caregivers who have already dedicated their time and energy to caring for loved ones,” Governor Hochul said. “By recognizing this work as the valuable and crucial caregiving it is, individuals can better connect with the many state and local resources and supports specific to their needs.”
Recognizing the unique stresses on working caregivers, the State Office for the Aging and the State Department of Labor launched a project to survey state employees and gain insight on the impact of caregiving on the workplace. The initiative is also promoting Caregivers in the Workplace, a 32-page guide that provides information to help employers support working caregivers.
New York State has more than four million unpaid caregivers. These are family members, friends or neighbors who provide uncompensated care and support to someone else, such as a spouse, an older parent, children, or someone with chronic or other medical conditions.
Unpaid caregivers perform a range of tasks for loved ones, such as accompanying them at medical appointments, providing help with bathing and dressing, shopping assistance and meal preparation, transportation, bill paying, household chores like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, and more. Yet more than 50 percent of individuals in this role do not self-identify as caregivers.
Caregivers contribute to New York’s long term care system in quantifiable ways. AARP estimates that the services provided by unpaid caregivers would cost roughly $32 billion annually.
New York has led a multi-strategy approach to assist family caregivers, through historic investments in the long-term care workforce, respite and social adult day care services offered through state and local offices for the aging, a landmark Paid Family Leave program, paid sick leave laws, and more. Individuals needing support caring for an older adult or person with disabilities can contact the NY Connects helpline at 1-800-342-9871 or the NY Connects Resources Directory, a trusted resource for free, objective information about long term services and supports in New York State.
About one in six employees in the United States is a caregiver for a relative or friend. On average, these individuals spend more than 20 hours per week providing some form of care.
U.S. businesses lose as much as $33.6 billion annually in caregiver-related turnover, absenteeism, and loss of productivity, according to one estimate. This includes situations where caregivers have no choice but to arrive late or leave work early, make phone calls during work time, leave work to respond to emergencies, or miss work altogether. Employees also have chosen to forgo promotions, have gone from full-time to part time or leave work altogether to continue their caregiving work.
For individuals providing care to an older person and a child at the same time, 85 percent experienced mental health symptoms and 52 percent reported suicidal thoughts, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 70 percent of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their dual roles; and 69 percent of caregivers reported having to rearrange their work schedule, decrease their hours, or take unpaid leave in order to meet responsibilities.
A similar number—70 percent—reported at least one mental health symptom, including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, COVID-induced trauma. More of this data is on Office for the Aging’s working caregivers webpage.
New York State Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen said, “The State Office for the Aging and the State Department of Labor launched our working caregivers initiative knowing the unique stresses on caregivers as well as the economic impacts for businesses and their willingness to help. In fact, more than 90 percent of Human Resource departments want to do more to support working caregivers but are not sure what to do, and 75 percent of people trust their employer and are more likely to use information provided by their employer. We also know that 55 percent of caregivers do not self-identify as caregivers, so the resources and videos we have jointly created will help individuals understand that they are not alone. Our Working Caregiver study is already helping to tell the story of caregiver impacts in New York State, but more data is needed. We urge all businesses to distribute this survey to their employees along with the many tools available to help caregivers self-identify, learn about the intensity of their caregiving, and find supports.”
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “For many New Yorkers, clocking out of their place of employment is far from the end of their workday. When these New Yorkers get home, they continue to provide care to a loved one, without pay. The strain of domestic labor can take a heavy physical and emotional toll on caregivers. This survey is part of Governor Hochul’s commitment to finding and implementing real solutions to support these essential members of our workforce.”
Many New York employees provide daily support to an older adult, child, or person with a disability, according to preliminary data from the New York State working caregivers survey. About 54 percent of employees care for one individual; 28 percent care for two individuals; 8 percent care for three individuals; and 11 percent care for four or more individuals.
These preliminary results also show that 32 percent of employees assist individuals 22 hours or more per week; 16 percent assist individuals for between 15 hours and 21 hours per week; 27 percent assist individuals for between eight hours and 14 hours per week; and 26 percent assist individuals for up to seven hours per week.
To participate in the working caregivers’ initiative, employers are urged to share:
- The Caregivers In the Workplace Guide with partner agencies, public and private employers.
- The newly released Caregiver Guide Video that helps individuals self-identify as caregivers and directs them to supports and other resources.
- The working caregivers survey with colleagues, friends, family and employees.
- Caregiver Intensity Index with all caregivers, including working and non-working caregivers.
- The Evidence-Based Caregiver Education and Training Portal, which is available free of charge for any caregiver in New York through a partnership between Trualta and the State Office for the Aging.
- The NY Connects Statewide Resource Directory to help individuals search for local services by zip code or service.