New research from AARP and S&P Global shows the increasing difficulty faced by people trying to balance work with eldercare or care for another adult, and how the conflict is leading some caregivers to forgo promotions or move from full-time to part-time work.

According to the study, “Working While Caregiving: It’s Complicated,” released yesterday, half of the respondents to a survey co-sponsored by AARP said they were having to make changes to their work schedules to accommodate their care responsibilities, including going in early or staying late, and even taking time off from work altogether.

Some 32% said they had to take a leave of absence, 27% had reduced their hours or moved from full-time to part-time work, and 16% had turned down a promotion, the survey said.

As a result, 84% of respondents said caregiving had a moderate or high impact on their stress levels, and 67% said outright they were having difficulty balancing work and caregiving responsibilities.

“Among the respondents who intend to leave their employer in the next year, 34% said their caregiving responsibilities were the primary reason they would leave, with another 41% saying that it was one of the reasons, meaning that care commitments were cited as a driver by 75% of those intending to leave,” the report said.

The survey, conducted last fall, polled 1,200 employees of large companies (those with more than 1,000 employees) who provided more than six hours of care each week to another adult.

The financial impact on caregivers went far beyond the obvious hit to their work hours and career paths, the report noted. Using data from another AARP study on out-of-pocket costs incurred by caregivers, the report reiterated that, on average, caregivers spend more than $7,200 a year on caregiving and that the time they spent on it tended to last an average 4.5 years.

The findings in the report were geared mostly toward employers, as the association called for more increased flexibility for employees with caregiving responsibilities. Overall, the survey found that progress has already been made in this area, as 45% of employers gave employees access to a flexible work schedule in 2023, when only 32% had done so in 2020.

However, there was also some discontent among respondents in how their caregiving duties were received.

“Most caregivers of adults (80%) believe companies are more understanding about childcare responsibilities than their caregiving circumstances,” the report said. “This is particularly true among respondents who have experienced both situations.”

Respondents said they were less likely to be penalized at work for taking care of another adult if that adult was a friend or neighbor, parent, parent-in-law or stepparent. However, some 48% said they felt penalized if the adult they cared for was a sibling, and another 45% said they felt penalized if the adult was a spouse or partner.