My place of employment launched an initiative to provide caregivers an opportunity to reach out to company members that understand how caregivers are often marginalized and unrecognized. This is invaluable for workers that often feel isolated while they are expected to meet overwhelming demands in their careers, at home, and in the communities they are a part of outside of work.

In large, caregivers can often experience social perceptions that marginalizes them while several of us have expectations without understanding what they are dealing with in private. Did you know that, according to Family Caregiver Alliance, there were around 34.2 million non-formal caregivers that have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months?

How aware are we of the stress impact this is having on our colleagues? This is an excerpt of the information that can be found on the Family Caregiver Alliance site:

How Many Caregivers in the U.S.?

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • The majority of caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Approximately 39.8 million caregivers provide care to adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness or 16.6% of Americans. [Coughlin, J. (2010). Estimating the Impact of Caregiving and Employment on Well-Being: Outcomes & Insights in Health Management.]
  • About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. [Alzheimer’s Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.]

What impact is this having on our workers? How burned out are they feeling during a time when around 84% of the organizations surveyed are reporting that they experienced labor shortages? Professor Elissa Epel shares the stunning information behind the disabilities that caregivers can experience.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn shares her point of view from her research on telomeres and the impact it can have on caregivers.

According to a February 2022 article, COVID-19 patients have a greater risk of experiencing brain fog even a year later after being sick from coronavirus. How many of these patients are our fellow colleagues? How many of the COVID-19 patients have long-term disabling effects and how many of them are sole caregivers (formal and informal) for disabled people?

These are important questions to consider as we forge forward in 2022 because caregivers often feel isolated, overwhelmed, depressed, and struggling with anxiety and/or PTSD. Employers are going to need innovative and creative approaches to help marginalized caregivers that struggle in silence because they feel too vulnerable in psychologically unsafe work environments where they feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood.

Our perfectionism cultures in business need to be addressed if we hope to retain valuable talent. Several in the workforce are struggling with a sense of loneliness, even in a crowded room because, our social narratives and perceptions are riddled with biases that compound their sense of isolation. While we’re thinking about the subject of burnout, who can feel burnout? What is involved with that? What can we do to shift our workplace cultures to keep our caregivers healthy, happy, and engaged?

I believe that having a caregiver support system with resources for them to turn to is a good start in a better direction. I believe that having regular meetups where caregivers can share their learnings with each other while venting would be invaluable. I also believe that the toxic perfectionist culture needs to be addressed so workers can bring their imperfect selves to work in an environment that acknowledges their vulnerabilities while refusing to weaponize their vulnerabilities against them so they can have the opportunity to feel seen, heard, and understood.