Meredith Viera Balances Career and Caregiving

Today, Meredith Viera officially announced her long-rumored June departure as co-host of the top-rated morning TV program, “Today.”  While many speculated that her retirement from morning television was due to a decline in health of her husband who lives with multiple sclerosis (MS) and has twice successfully battled colon cancer, 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 on the “Today” show was simply that she wants to spend quality time with her husband while he is still healthy.  Knowing the challenges that she and her husband will face with his MS, this gives them time to plan as a family and gives Viera a chance to thoughtfully plan for the future care of her husband and her future career move.

While Viera’s career as a news 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 means impact to a caregiver’s work-life and productivity on the job but also impact to a caregiver’s health and wellness.

The Caregiving and Career Balancing Act

Because many caregivers come into their role in a crisis, the juggling act of caring for a loved one and working full or even part-time can add stress to caregiver’s life which medical professionals say can lead to other health risks such as hypertension that can escalate to higher blood pressure and possibly heart attack or stroke if the stress becomes intensified and is ongoing.

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 chose early retirement which can add financial pressure to an already overwhelmed life.

In addition, as opposed to Viera 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 putting their own financial future at risk.

The same study showed that more than half of these working caregivers report increased stress.

Clarion Call to Employers – Care for Your Caregiving Employees

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.

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 Viera – give yourself time to plan ahead.  With a growing older population who will need care, caregiving will probably be a role that you will be playing (if you have not already).  If you know what programs your employer has, this will help you plan ahead to juggle caregiving and your career.




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