Alzheimer’s Caregivers Work to Find Balance Between Home and the Workplace

DAYTON, OH – Charlotte Robinson, of Dayton, said she decided to retire early to care for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Prior to the COVID restrictions, every day when Sandy Barnett, of Springfield, got off work, she drove 30 minutes to London, Ohio, to visit her husband, who stays at Bluebird Retirement Community in London, one of the few places she could afford for her husband, who at age 48 was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“It’s just very stressful,” Barnett said. “I have to (work) full-time in order to make ends meet…. you have to find an employer who is going to be supportive of your situation.”

Today’s workforce is filled with employees acting as Alzheimer’s caregivers. Six in 10 caregivers were employed in the past year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And 57 percent of employed caregivers had to go in to work late, leave early or take time off due to caregiving demands.

Add to that stress the start of school during a pandemic and corporate human resources staffs say that caregiving responsibilities may be one of the top stressors of their workforce.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, the Alzheimer’s Association will sponsor a corporate event, “The Impact of Caregiving in the Workplace” to talk about the needs of caregivers, and Alzheimer’s Association resources available to help employees navigate caregiving responsibilities.

“We know when you come to work you are coming to work with your husband, your kids, your mom, your dad, whatever is going on in your world,” said Veronica Doucette, SVP/Human Resources Officer for Civista Bank. “The baby boomer generation, they are retiring, but those are our parents and we will become caregivers.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, Ohio has the sixth largest number of Alzheimer’s caregivers in the nation. In addition, nationwide statistics show:

  • 18 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers went from full-time to part-time work
  • 16 percent took a leave of absence
  • 9 percent gave up working entirely

“Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be extremely stressful,” said Eric VanVlymen, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter. “Add to that the pressures of work, and you often have an employee who is tired, stressed, overwhelmed and probably not taking good care of themselves.”

The Alzheimer’s Association offers companies employee education programs.  Individual employees or anyone in the public can access free support groups and individualized care consultations for those needing to build a care plan. The Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 is an instant source of information.

When Jennifer Loveless’ husband John was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, she found that she needed time just to understand the surprising diagnosis.

“I think any caregiver trying to find balance on their own is not successful. That’s what I quickly came to realize,” said Loveless, who is Vice President/Private Bank Relationship Manager at Civista. She said she needed time to process, grieve over the diagnosis and accept her new position as a caregiver.

“I was going through the stages of grief and denial,” said Loveless. “I was so overwhelmed with what my new role was that I did not have the confidence to make the decisions that I needed to make.”

At Civista, Loveless found the caring support she needed. Her supervisor had been working with Loveless to allow her to adjust her schedule and work outside of normal hours. But it was clear she needed additional support, Doucette said. “That is when (the supervisor) looped in HR and we said ‘What can we do? Jennifer has been a long-term employee in this organization and she has superior performance. What can we do to help her during this time?’” Doucette said. The company offered her a leave of absence with no penalty. Loveless’ supervisor took over her entire workload.

“Civista Bank gave me ‘permission’ to take care of me,” Loveless said. Loveless contacted the Alzheimer’s Association, which helped her build a plan of care for her husband. She said when she came back to work, she was able to give Civista “the best of herself rather than the rest of myself.”

“We never want an employee to have to choose between family and work,” Doucette said. “We want employees to be the best that they can be,” Doucette said. “If that means taking some time off to get the help they need or changing job roles or changing duties or modifying them in order to accommodate. That’s who we are as a company.”

Sandy Barnett’s husband Randy Barnett was originally diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s but later the diagnosis was changed to frontotemporal dementia. After caring for him at home, while working, she found he needed more care than she could provide. While the Veterans Administration helped pay for his attendance at an Adult Day Care Program several days of the week, he began exhibiting some behavioral issues and needed a higher level of care.

At some point in her caregiver journey, she had to take time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act to do what she needed to do for her husband. Today, she works as the registrar at Springfield High School. This is her second position at the high school. She said when she first interviewed with the school, she talked about her husband’s condition and her need for flexibility if the nursing home were to call.

She said her experience has been that “no employer is going to be understanding unless they have somehow been touched by that situation….It’s just a struggle. More employers need to be more compassionate.”

To register forThe Impact of Caregiving in the Workplace” event, email msrose@alz.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s