8:58 AM EDT, May 27, 2011
By Shelley J. Steiner
Special to The Herald-Mail
When Jo learned her mother's illness was serious, she had no idea that it would affect every aspect of her family's lives — even her work life.
For the first time in her memory, she was unable to balance her personal life with her work life. Jo had always been chosen to handle sizable projects and was selected to lead multiple initiatives at work. For her, her dedication to her job was part of her identity.
But suddenly, she needed time to take her mother to medical appointments, to accompany her to treatments and to wade through the growing maze of bills and insurance papers.
In addition, her children still needed her attention and presence in their busy schedules. Because of her fatigue and many absences to meet her mother's needs, Jo became concerned that her job was in jeopardy.
She noticed her boss' unhappiness when she needed to take another morning off, and the frustrated reaction when co-workers often needed to help handle her responsibilities. All in all, the work that had been a source of pleasure and fulfillment now became a source of distress and added burden.
When a family experiences long-term illness, there are repercussions throughout the workplace. A family is thrown into intense decision-making, as well as exhaustion of meeting the physical demands of the patient, schedule changes and emotional upheaval. For many working adults, the stress of caregiving creates conflict between family and employer needs. Hospice can help both workers and employers adjust to meet the individual caregiving needs.
Not addressing caregiving, death and grief in the workplace can affect an organization's bottom line through loss of productivity and higher costs. Studies conducted in recent years estimated that American businesses lose $17.1 to $33.6 billion per year in lost productivity of working caregivers. The most commonly reported reason for absenteeism at work is caregiving for an ever-increasing elderly population.
Caregiving is not just a social service issue, but a process that employers must view through a business-focused, strategic lens.
As the baby boomer generation ages, only forward-thinking businesses will be able to balance the needs of its workforce with the issues of caregiving, death and grief in the workplace with the productivity and profitability of their businesses.
Hospice has a full range of services that benefit the employee and hence the employer affected by caregiving stress.
A fully informed human resources department can supply the caregiving employee with information regarding hospice services to relieve the burdens of serious illness.
Hospice can offer individual and group counseling services to employees grieving the loss of a co-worker.
If you are a business experiencing increasing numbers of employees coping with caregiving, or who are dealing with an aging workforce, contact your hospice to learn about support services available.
Shelley J. Steiner is marketing and community relations director of Hospice of Washington County.
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