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Elder Caregivers: Usually Women Who Have Trouble Juggling Jobs

PHOTO: A new report finds employer policies need tweaks to help family caregivers keep their jobs. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
PHOTO: A new report finds employer policies need tweaks to help family caregivers keep their jobs. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
June 26, 2013

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - As Wyomingites grow older, there are more pressures for families to take care of relatives who encounter disabilities and illnesses. Most of those caring for husbands, wives and parents also are in the workforce, and most are women.

Those are two findings in a new report from AARP that outlines how changes in policies could help workers and employers.

Beth Arnold of Cheyenne agrees that updates are needed. She quickly discovered it wasn't possible to juggle her job with caring for her husband when his Alzheimer's progressed.

"If you have to work, it takes up a lot of time," she said. "And then, I had to quit to take care of my husband."

The AARP report recommends changes to unpaid family and medical leave, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick leave, all to help families cope - ensuring those policies can be accessed by people caring for spouses, parents and other relatives. It also suggests making family and medical leave an option for low-income employees and those at small companies.

The AARP report shows that about three out of four women who are caregivers are in the workforce, and one in four retirees left his or her job earlier than planned to care for an ill family member. Arnold said that situation is common in Wyoming.

"I know I had a couple of friends that have had to retire early," she said. "They couldn't afford the time to stay home with their husbands."

Arnold said public awareness is needed so workers know about existing leave policies. The report noted that better data collection is needed to craft other policies to help those who provide elder care.

The full report is online at aarp.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY