DAYTON — 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, Springfield resident Sandy Barnett would leave work every day and drive 30 minutes to Bluebird Retirement Community in London. It was 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. Fifty-seven percent of employed caregivers had to go in to work late, leave early or take time off due to caregiving demands.
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. Because Ohio is aging, corporate human resources staffs are finding that caregiving responsibilities may be one of the top stressors of their workforce.
“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.
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 for “The Impact of Caregiving in the Workplace” event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.