More than 1.3 million people in Michigan qualify as working caregivers. Anyone who holds a job and takes on the duties to care for one or both parents is considered a working caregiver. This is an often overlooked group of people that would benefit from support, education and training. The Working Caregiver Initiative (WCI) is a non-profit created to address and assist this growing group of people and families in this need throughout Michigan.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than 25% of American families are now providing care for someone over the age of 65 in their home. This stressor causes increased health risks, a greater chance for developing signs of depression or anxiety, and even speeds the aging process for the one providing care, even to the point of reducing one’s life expectancy by up to 10 years. This can lead to chronic absenteeism, presenteeism, and even poor performance due to the working caregiver feeling overwhelmed. Moreover 10% of working caregivers eventually cut back to part-time work or even leave the workforce altogether.
“The Working Caregiver Initiative (WCI) was created to provide quality support, education, and training for those who are both family caregivers and working professionals,” says Bert Copple, the President and creator of the WCI program.
“I worry about my mom being home by herself,” says Jeana Rea of Warren, Michigan. “My husband works 50 plus hours a week, my kids have school and sporting events, and I’m working as well. It can be stressful, but we have to do it to make ends meet. Being able to proactively care for my mom’s needs is a big deal, and the WCI program has helped me cope with my challenges.”
Copple says Jeana, and thousands like her, are part of a new generation that must make proactive care-giving decisions for their parents. They take on the responsibilities to keep mom and/or dad safe, at home, while both spouses work and manage the household.
“No one has more on their plate than a mom or dad who has to provide care for their children while reversing roles with their parents to manage mom’s incontinence or dad’s dementia care,” adds Copple. “Because the family dynamics have changed so dramatically, and will continue to change as this tsunami of seniors come of age, employers needs to look to support, educate, and train their working caregivers to retain those who are key to their survival in this economy.”
Over the next 14 years, the number of people at the age of 50 will increase by 74%, while those under the age of 50 will increase by a mere 1%. The bottom line is there will be fewer professional caregivers to provide care, putting a greater strain on working caregivers to pull double duty.
“The WCI’s focus is to help working caregivers self-identify as caregivers,” says Copple. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, 90% of family caregivers become more proactive about seeking skills and resources they need once they identify themselves as a working caregiver. In the work force, it can be as easy as offering an employee assistance program to help employees make that connection.
“Most working caregivers don’t even realize they are providing care for their parents. They think it is normal to provide incidental transportation or manage medications or even help with personal care,” explains Copple. “We want working caregivers to install the grab bar in the shower before mom slips in the shower, not after she has fallen and broken her hip. We educate working caregivers on topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, in-home medical care and non-medical care, power of attorney and how to understand Medicare and Medicaid and where to find support groups in the community.”
The WCI provides free support via a toll-free help line, coaching, support groups, and spiritual direction. We provide an on-line library of how-to videos and presentations on over 16 care-giving topics, weekly podcasts, and workplace caregiver fairs where WCI experts make themselves available to a company’s employees for a four hour block of time, free of charge, to answer questions and provide assistance. The WCI hosts community caregiver-training programs, which provide practical, hands-on training with skills such as transferring, personal care, and even cooking for seniors.
For businesses, organizations, and places of worship, the WCI offers a speaker’s bureau, capable of providing more than 40 presentations on the issues of care giving. The WCI will also begin hosting Working Caregiver Experts Fairs, throughout SE Michigan, this summer.
“The WCI program is available to Michigan’s employers free of charge,” says Copple. “We know this is going to become a greater issue for millions of Americans, and we’re here to help during these difficult times.”
To learn more about the Working Caregiver Initiative and how the program can help businesses reduce lost productivity, visit www.mywci.net or call Bert Copple at 248-203-2273.