When Meredith Vieira officially announced her long-rumored June departure as co-host of the top-rated Today Show, many speculated that her retirement was due to a decline in health of her husband, who lives with multiple sclerosis (MS) and has twice successfully battled colon cancer. But the reality is a simple lesson in how to plan for a caregiving role.
Viera’s response at the press conference immediately following her announcement was simply that she wants to spend quality time with her husband while he’s still healthy. Knowing the challenges that she and her husband will face with his MS, this gives Vieira a chance to plan thoughtfully for the future care of her husband and her future career move.
While Vieira’s career as a journalist will hopefully give her some flexibility to stay involved in her profession and be there for her husband, many caregivers do not have that “flex time” advantage.
Many of the nation’s 65 million Americans become caregivers in a crisis. In addition, almost 7 out of 10 (68 percent) are juggling caregiving and a career, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. This has an impact not only on a caregiver’s work-life and productivity on the job but also his or her health and wellness.
Studies conducted by NAC and the MetLife Mature Market Institute find that caregivers often take a leave of absence, reduce their work hours, turn down a promotion or choose early retirement, which can add financial pressure to an already overwhelmed life.
In addition, as opposed to Vieira , whom we assume has greater financial resources than most caregivers, a study conducted by NAC and UnitedHealthcare’s Evercare division showed that 47 percent of the caregivers, who have been spending more on care-related costs since the economic downturn, report using all or most of their retirement savings and dipping into 401Ks to cover these costs. This puts their own financial future at risk.
Before you encounter these challenges, check with your employer to see if there is a Work-Life program or Employee Assistance Program that can help you if or when you become a caregiver.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 11 percent of U.S. employers offer their workforce access to services that can help reduce your time spent researching resources for your loved one or even give you access to a professional care manager who can help you put together a plan for caring for your loved one while you are on the job.
By getting a helping hand, you can breathe a little easier and find time to balance caring for yourself while caring for your loved one.
And take a tip from Meredith Vieira – give yourself time to plan ahead. With a growing older population that will need care, you’ll probably be a caregiver (if you aren’t one already). If you know what programs your employer has, you’ll have an easier time with both caregiving and your career.
Sherri Snelling, CEO and founder of the Caregiving Club, is a nationally recognized expert on America’s 65 million family caregivers with special emphasis on how to help caregivers balance self-care and caring for a loved one.