Best Careers for Family Caregivers

by Catey Hill

For the 43 million Americans taking care of another adult, climbing the corporate ladder may seem all but impossible. Now, though, help is coming from a surprising corner: Your employer.

A decade ago, few people had ever heard of corporate benefits like elder care leave and caregiving referral services. Now some 10% of companies currently provide them, a percentage experts expect to keep growing. Flex-time, which is critical for dealing with emergencies or monitoring care, is also getting more popular. Almost one in five companies say that in 2011 they plan to add or increase the amount of flex-time options they offer employees, according to a survey by executive search firm Amrop Battalia Winston.

For those that have found caregiving to be a career killer, it’s a welcome change. Nearly 75% caregivers say that they’ve had to change jobs or stop working because of the demands of caring for a family member or friend, according to a February 2011 survey by Furthermore, 40% of caregivers say that looking after someone has limited their chances to advance, according to The MetLife Juggling Act Study. All that career upheaval really hurts: The household incomes of families in which one person is a caregiver are 15% lower than those of families without a caregiver, according to the government’s Disability and American Families study.

For employers, the move is strategic. Many understand that such benefits are now needed to retain “the best and the brightest” employees – many of whom are finding themselves having to care for someone — says Kate Lister, principal consultant for Telework Research Network. A 2010 government study, “Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility,” also found that incentives like shortened work weeks and generous options for emergency leave tend to increase worker productivity, reduce turnover and save companies a significant amount of money.

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RESEARCH: Caregiving Strain and Estimated Risk for Stroke and Coronary Heart Disease Among Spouse Caregivers

Differential Effects by Race and Sex
William E. Haley, PhD; David L. Roth, PhD; George Howard, DrPH Monika M. Safford, MD

From the School of Aging Studies (W.E.H.), University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla; the Department of Biostatistics (D.L.R., G.H.), School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Ala; and the Department of Preventive Medicine (M.M.S.), University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Ala.

Correspondence to William E. Haley, PhD, School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, MHC 1343, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620-8100. E-mail

Background and Purpose— Psychosocial stress has been widely studied as a risk factor for stroke and coronary heart disease (CHD) but little is known about the differential effects of stress on stroke and CHD risk by race and sex. Caregiving for a disabled spouse has been associated with increased mortality and CHD risk, but the association of caregiving strain with stroke and CHD risk across race and sex is unknown.

Methods— Participants in the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study who were providing in-home caregiving to a disabled spouse reported on caregiving strain (high, some, or none), depressive symptoms, social network, education, and age. Caregiving strain groups were compared on the Framingham Stroke Risk Score (N=716) and Framingham CHD Risk Score (N=607), which estimate the projected 10-year risk of incident stroke and ischemic heart disease, respectively.

Results— High caregiving strain was associated with a 23% higher covariate-adjusted estimated stroke risk (11.06% for caregivers with no strain versus 13.62% risk for high-strain caregivers). This association was stronger in men, particularly African American men with high caregiving strain (26.95% estimated 10-year stroke risk). Caregiving strain was not associated with CHD risk scores.

Conclusions— Caregiving strain is significantly associated with higher estimated stroke risk with greatest effects for men, particularly African American men, providing caregiving to their wives. Male spouse caregivers may need special caregiving support. Prospective longitudinal studies should examine how sex and race may moderate the impact of stress on stroke and CHD risk.

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