Supporting employees who are caring for elderly parents

When it comes to COVID19, it is well understood that the elderly are the most “at risk” demographic for contracting the virus. Communities and families must ensure that they take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of this population as much as possible. For families, this is an extremely difficult time filled with worry and concern whilst caring for their family members who may be living at a distance.

Psychological impacts of caring

Government based research has shown that those aged 70 years and above, or those aged 65 years and above with compromised immune systems, are the most vulnerable to both contracting the virus and also recording the highest mortality rates (health.gov.au).

Carers often forget or neglect their own self-care and emotional needs. In addition to the stress and worry experienced towards their loved one’s health, carers are also likely experiencing anxiety to do with other areas in their lives such as financial, work and their own health concerns.

Be a supportive leader

If you have a team member who is caring for an elderly parent, have a check-in conversation with them to provide support, offer practical solutions and an empathetic ear. Furthermore, here are some tips that you can provide to your employee for caring for a vulnerable family member during this time.

  1. Offer flexibility in work. As caring may look a little different at present, give your employee options, such as in the form of a compressed working week, flexibility in working times, altered working hours or temporarily reduced work hours if requested. Additionally, see if any tasks can be temporarily re-allocated during this time and review the employee’s roles and responsibilities and who they report to. Remind the employee this is only temporary and will not affect their job security.
  2. Suggest engaging in carers leave. Remind your employee of their eligibility to access specific leave, such as carers leave or personal leave. Check in with your workplace policy prior to your conversation so you can inform them how much paid and unpaid leave they are eligible for.
  3. Encourage self-care. Often carers neglect their own wellbeing as their time is spent always looking after others. Remind your employee to look after their own wellbeing, mental and physical, during this time. By taking some time out each day for self-care it’s important to rest, recover and allow them to perform at their best in all their roles. Furthermore, encourage them to remain connected with their social network including their family, friends, colleagues and you as their manager.
  4. Encourage reaching out for support. Provide your employee with both internal and external support options for this time. There are a variety of resources available if you are a carer for an elderly family member, including:
  • Your Employee Assistance Program
  • COVID-19 Support Line 1800 171 866 (free call) a dedicated line to provide support and advice for dealing with the impacts of COVID-19
  • Carer Gateway 1800 422 737 providing short-term counselling and emotional support and emergency respite. Their website also contains a range of resources to support carers.
  • My Aged Care 1800 200 422 for planned respite, plus their website provides lots of resources to support elderly individuals

Caring for an elderly family member during COVID-19 poses some significant challenges and additional concerns. Having a conversation with an employee who is a carer of a vulnerable family member follows the same structure as having a conversation with any employee. However, it is important to acknowledge the specific situation the employee is in and communicate that you are wanting to support them through this time. Discuss the specific tips listed above, as well as your workplace’s relevant Policy to work towards supportive, short term solutions for their immediate situation.

The Centre for Corporate Health can assist in supporting leaders and managers during this time, contact us on 02 8243 1500 or email us at admin@cfch.com.au to ask about our Manager Assist Program and how we can support your leaders during COVID-19.