The plight of family caregivers has received warranted attention during the pandemic. No one can be sure how many more family caregivers exist beyond the 54 million that were reported in pre-pandemic studies.
There’s been a lot of talk and action around employers offering benefits related to family caregiving, especially paid time off and leave. I’ve spent the last few years advocating for solutions that make life easier for family caregivers, whether these were assistance programs that companies offered in employee assistance programs or technology solutions that made life easier. Make no mistake, these are needed.
However, we’re not having the necessary bigger conversation around caregiving. For example, health systems fail to recognize the family caregiver as part of the team; fail to recognize that the family caregiver has health issues of his or her own; and fail to realize that caregiving is a social determinant of health.
Caregiving can be gratifying. I know that personally. How do we reach an equilibrium where family members can do what they want to do, and can reasonably do, while not suffering guilt or giving up the gratification that comes with caregiving? Caregivers have become health care workers. Working family caregivers are essentially dual employed. That is not a sustainable national workforce strategy in a competitive marketplace.
Jeannette Galvanek, founder of CareWise Solutions, suggests we need a new category of job creation that’s devoted to absorbing more of the burden of caregiving.
Until then, the answer isn’t providing tools for more effective caregiving at home, offering flexible schedules or a leave of absence. Giving people more time off, paid time off or flex time doesn’t make them a more productive caregiver.
Several companies have recognized that curating resources is a bridge to making the family caregiver less harried and more productive.
Take Joe and Bella, for example. They’ve taken a rather straight-forward category — household goods — and curated specific packages for caregivers. As they bill it, “Everything you need to make life a little better for older adults — all in one place.”
Co-founder Jimmy Zollo explains that after both of his grandparents moved into a care community, his family’s world was turned upside down. He soon found there was no single place to get all the stuff his grandparents needed. Scrolling through unreliable product reviews across dozens of websites was time-consuming and frustrating. He and his dad created Joe and Bella to make shopping for older adults simple. They carry everything from comfy clothes to creative gifts and toiletries that can be automatically reordered.
The “EveryDay Essentials” box, for example, lets you choose toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner and soap. You can customize your box so that it has just the products you want, when you want them.
On the other end of the spectrum you find Lisa Cini, who’s the founder, president and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio. Her website, Best Living Tech, showcases technology in these categories: home, health, memory, companion, fitness and vision/hearing.
Then there’s Connie Chow’s Daily Caring website. It recognizes that caregivers need practical answers, fast. As they state: “We help you solve the frustrating day-to-day problems that make you lose your temper or keep you up at night.”
Daily Caring recognizes that there’s no shortage of information available to family caregivers. But who has time to dig through everything on the Internet just to find that one nugget of info that can help you? They do the digging for you. They search to find the most practical and useful tips, advice, personal stories and resources related to caregiving and aging. Then, they boil it down to the most important points you’ll want to know.
We need more curated resources for family caregivers as we work to change the caregiver model.
More from U.S. News