November is National Family Caregivers Month, an annual observance to raise awareness of family caregiver issues and increase support of caregivers. This observance may not seem to be directly safety-related, but the added stress that your workers may feel from their caregiving responsibilities at home may lead to increased unsafe acts in the workplace. So if you can give them brief guidance on handling these family responsibilities, you may be able to cut down on accidents in the workplace by ensuring that your workers aren’t stressed and distracted by personal issues.
Many middle-aged Americans find themselves caring for two generations: their children, both young kids and young adults, and their elderly parents. One of the most frustrating issues in caring for growing kids and aging parents is managing their independence levels. Both groups fluctuate between wanting to be independent and needing assistance and security from the middle-aged adult.
Give your workers these strategies for managing three generations in one household:
- Set up house rules. Include household responsibilities for all family members. Establish schedules and assign chores. Also work out space arrangements and quiet time.
- Revisit rules regularly. Get family members together to talk about how the arrangements are working, and be flexible to changing situations. Encourage the generations to respect one another’s experiences and values.
- Set up a financial plan. Include income from all household members, and assign responsibilities for paying expenses. Help teens establish independence by taking on financial responsibility. Help seniors retain independence by letting them continue to pay bills.
- Help young adults transition from kids to renters. Set up a plan akin to a renter’s agreement outlining the financial obligations of young adults living at home. Let them know that while they’ll always be your kids, they are now legal adults who need to begin supporting themselves.
- Respect privacy. Elderly parents and young adults should have their own rooms, telephones, and televisions, if possible.
- Take care of yourself. Make time for yourself, your spouse, and your friends. If you burn out, everyone loses.
In addition, encourage your workers to use these caregiving resources. They need to remember that they’re not alone, and they shouldn’t hesitate to use the help that is available at these resources:
- National Family Caregivers Association at www.thefamilycaregiver.org or 800-896-3650 celebrates 18 years of speaking up for family caregivers in 2011.
- National Alliance for Caregiving at www.caregiving.org includes publications, resources, events, and legislative updates.
- Eldercare at www.eldercare.com is a noncommercial site with essays on “Home Care vs. Retirement Homes” and “Assisted Living.”
Why It Matters
- People are putting off having kids until later in life, so they still have kids in the house when their own parents may start needing care.
- A large number of young people stay home after high school—and sometimes even after college.
- The increasing life expectancy finds many older people in reduced financial and/or physical circumstances.
- Middle-aged people—who are also in the prime of their working lives—may be distracted from these responsibilities and less alert at work.