In the United States, 5.5 million men and women care for a current or former soldier with a disability or illness. We call these people military caregivers. Of these, 4.4 million care for veterans who served before September 11, 2001 (pre-9/11 caregivers) and 1.1 million care for veterans who served after September 11, 2001 (post-9/11 caregivers).
While this can be rewarding, caregiving can also be demanding and difficult. Military caregivers have many physical and mental health problems, and married caregivers are less satisfied with their marital and family relationships. Many caregivers also find it difficult to balance their caregiving responsibilities with their work. This balancing act can be difficult for both the military-especially after 9/11-and their employers.
Percentage of caregivers who answered “yes” to the question “As a result of caregiving, have you…. ?”
- Have you ever been absent from work without pay or temporarily laid off? – 48%
- Have you ever reduced the number of hours in your usual work week? – 39%
- Stopped working altogether? – 28%
- Stopped studying or reduced your work hours? – 26%
- Would you switch to a job that paid less or offered fewer benefits, but better suited to your schedule or caregiving responsibilities? – 16 %
- Would you have retired earlier if you had? – 11 %
We present results from a large-scale RAND study of military caregivers on the impact of military caregiving on employment and career outcomes.
Caregiving is an enormous economic burden for caregivers
About 30% of post-9/11 caregivers spend 40 or more hours a week caring for their children. Their work is worth nearly $3 billion a year – the money society would spend on caring for post-9/11 veterans if these caregivers did not provide free help.
Nearly half of those who have worked as caregivers since 9/11 have had to adjust their work life to accommodate caregiving, and 62% say caregiving has placed a financial strain. One reason for this financial strain is, of course, the cost of caring for a veteran, which would not otherwise be covered. However, another obvious reason is the loss of pay due to reduced work. As the table above shows, many employed caregivers reduce their hours, quit their jobs, take early retirement, or move to more comfortable jobs.
… And for employers too
Caregivers hired after September 11, 2001 lose an average of 29 hours, or 3.5 working days per month. This means a loss of wages for the worker and also affects businesses that cannot find a replacement worker or suffer the loss of productivity and work time caused by absenteeism. This translates to approximately $6 billion in lost productivity each year.
On average, employed post-9/11 caregivers miss 3½ days of work each month.
Businesses honor our veterans by supporting employees who care for military personnel. Here's how businesses can support military caregivers:
- Caregivers shoould know that you support them. Let your veterans know you support caregivers. Let your caregivers know you support them. They may not talk to their employer or colleagues about their responsibilities as caregivers. Employers can help raise awareness by promoting messages of support for military caregivers. Because support services vary from country to country, employers can help identify them and encourage caregivers to use them. They can also promote better support services, such as extended respite care.
- Provide support services for caregivers. Offer health programs or employee assistance programs (EAPs) that caregivers can access in the workplace. Research shows that wellness programs can help employees cope with chronic illness while supporting caregivers. EAPs have been shown to reduce absenteeism and improve caregiver productivity.
- Work with employees to help them adjust to their caregiving responsibilities. To the extent possible, try to offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate the competing demands of military caregivers. This may include flexible work scheduling and telecommuting. Encourage workers with competing demands to seek such arrangements.
- Hire enough caregivers. Show your support for military nurses by hiring them. When caregivers are well supported, they can apply their caregiving skills in the workplace in ways that benefit them and their employers.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.