For months, from our respective perspectives in the healthcare system, we have been considering the reason why front-line employees are leaving their jobs. According to a survey published in October, 1 in 5 healthcare workers have resigned or retired – and a further 20% are considering leaving healthcare altogether. Early in the new year, we think it’s time to do something about it.
As employers assess how to protect, retain, and support healthcare professionals, a serious problem to be addressed is unpaid care responsibilities, which are more than doubling the mental consequences for working caregivers (or “double-duty” caregivers). ARCHANGELS data show that 43% of adults across the United States serve as an unpaid caregiver – and we believe they need more resources from employers to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
An unpaid caregiver is a parent, guardian or a person who cares for a person over the age of 18, e.g. an aging parent or spouse. According to ARCHANGELS data, many unpaid carers do not recognize their role – in their heads they are “just a son” or “a wife.” We have to recognize that many of our paid healthcare professionals are also unpaid caregivers, and they neglect to recognize the dual impact of these roles. As a result, they may relieve their own feelings of anxiety, depression, and exhaustion.
The reality is that caring for someone at home, at work, or in your community is intense and can affect all aspects of our lives, including our willingness and ability to keep working.
Last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study that revealed that 70% of all relatives reported at least one negative mental health symptom, including anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. For those caregivers who fall into the “sandwich generation” – who care for children as well as an adult – a staggering 52% report recent, serious suicidal thoughts. Can you imagine being responsible for patient care during a deadly pandemic and still taking care of other Healthcare professionals need a break and employers and the wider community can intervene to help.
The Henry Ford Health System recognized these barriers for working caregivers – especially frontline staff – and established the award-winning CARE program that gives all staff access to resources that help paid and unpaid caregivers. There are resources available for mental and behavioral health, family challenges, financial pressures and more.
With COVID-19’s impact on the workforce, we believe that programs like these need to be scaled and expanded. We gave our staff the opportunity to take ARCHANGELS ‘Caregiver Intensity Index and found that almost 1 in 3 (31%) scored “in the red” or with “high intensity.” ARCHANGEL’s data also showed that the provision of supportive programs focusing on the health and well-being of relatives is an essential tool in the fight against burnout. If there were more programs in place for staff to assess their level of caregiver intensity and easily access user-friendly support, perhaps more working health professionals could meet their own mental health needs while supporting their loved ones, colleagues, and patients.
With the rise in the omicron and the startling labor shortage, it is now up to employers to step up and do more to support unpaid carers, especially dual-duty carers like those working in healthcare. If there are more resources available that recognize the intensity and complexity of employees – who in many cases are working caregivers – we have a shot at improving the work-life balance and helping individuals stay on their jobs at some point , where they are most needed.