How Joan Lunden grew to become caregiving advocate

Ahead of her HBLC keynote, the writer and TV personality shares what sparked her own passion for helping nursing.

For many working mothers, starting a new job a few weeks after having their first child would be a logistical nightmare. But for Joan Lunden things were eased thanks to her employer ABC, who in 1980 realized the need to support Lunden’s new reality of care when she became the newest hostess of Good Morning America.

“I was lucky,” says Lunden, who will be keynote speaker at the upcoming Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. “I worked for a company that not only gave me free time when my daughters were born, but when I returned to work I was privileged to be one of the first working women in this country to bring my little daughter to work with me.”

At the time, such perks were highly unusual, explains Lunden.

“It was in my best interest, but also in your best interest. I helped keep the ratings high so they would make a profit. I think far too many companies lose fabulous employees if they don’t extend paid vacation and [give people the] Assurance to keep their jobs. “

Joan Lunden

Lunden’s self-described “luck” at being in this position with ABC, as well as the hundreds of letters she received from women across the country explaining how significant benefits like hers would be in their own lives contributed to this to “light a fire within me to embark on a journey as an advocate for women and families and do my part to ensure that families get the support they need. “

That fire burned even brighter years later when she began caring for her mother with dementia and her older brother who had developed complications from type II diabetes. For years Lunden traveled across country from the east coast, where she worked and raised her children, to California, where her mother and brother lived, to look after her until her death.

“As part of the so-called sandwich generation, I looked after my children – from small babies to teens and young adults – while also taking care of my aging mother and brother while I worked full-time,” says Lunden, die will speak about their history and the role of employers in caring for employees during the opening address at HBLC on May 11th. The conference, which will be held practically May 11-13, and this year is free for attendees, will take place in-depth information on COVID-19 and Smart Benefit strategies to support staff in difficulty. To register for the event, click here.

Decades after Lunden paved the way at ABC, many more employees are on a similar journey – parenting, caring for older family members, or both. These challenges were only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed many day care centers, schools and elderly care facilities and many employees juggled homeschooling or caring for an elderly relative while working from home. As a result, many women workers in particular have already left the workforce and many more are considering doing so.

It’s just one reason it’s a group that is passionate about helping Lunden.

She is the spokesperson for A Place for Mom senior referral service, a company that helps caregivers and families find the right care and resources for their loved ones. She co-wrote Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Carers, published in 2012, and hosted the “Take Care of Joan Lunden” series on the RLTV network, which explores the challenges of caring.

She also campaigned for the legislature. Earlier last year, Lunden testified during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing in support of the Family and Health Insurance Leave Act sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.). Legislation would provide for a 12-week partial income for family leave. The financing would come from an income tax.

“The number of American workers who need personal medical vacation, either for themselves or for another family member, will only increase,” Lunden said, citing statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services that roughly half of Americans do At 65, developing a disease, disability will be “serious enough that it will need care.”

“We are in the midst of a care crisis, and so I strongly believe that any paid vacation policy should address the full range of care needs that families face,” Lunden told lawmakers during her testimony. “Families everywhere are counting on you, Congress, to see goodbye to that kind of comprehensive paid family vacation that helps us all when we need it most.”

That law wasn’t passed last year, but it was reintroduced this year, giving some proponents hope for a permanent national law on paid leave. In March, nearly 200 employers – including Etsy, Levi Strauss & Co., and Pinterest – wrote to House and Senate leaders asking them to grant permanent paid family and sick leave through the Biden Harris government recovery package grant.

“We cannot emerge from this pandemic and remain one of only two countries in the world that do not have paid national holidays,” the letter said. “We need policies that are inclusive and protect all workers equally, regardless of what kind of work they do, where they live or who they love.”

See also: This is how working mothers want employers to support them

Proponents say a federal vacation policy would help millions of workers caring for family members. According to AARP research, there were around 41 million family carers in the United States in 2017 providing around 34 billion hours of unpaid care to other adults. The economic value of their efforts has been estimated at $ 470 billion.

And although some states offer paid care leave and employers are starting to focus on care and parenting efforts – a recent Business Group on Health survey of 113 large employers found that 40% of respondents increased paid leave benefits in 2019, for example – gaps remain. While larger employers are more likely to offer competitive advantages such as care and parental leave, most medium-sized and smaller businesses are less likely to do so. Part-time workers receive such benefits even less often. And while the federal law on family and sick leave allows many employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid vacation each year without the risk of losing their jobs, it does not provide financial assistance to employees.

“A few short weeks would give time to bond with a new baby, say goodbye to a loved one, and take care of yourself during the toughest times in life,” says Lunden of implementing a paid family vacation program. “Paid family leave and medical leave will support families and employers alike, as they will not have to lose any employees in their lives. When we don’t have to choose between income and caring for loved ones, we all become stronger, both at work and at home. “

It is a fight that Lunden does not want to give up.

“I hope I can use my public platform to make sure Americans everywhere have the support they need to care for newborns and aging relatives and still keep their jobs,” she says. “40 years ago, ABC extended my paid leave for my maternity leave and allowed me to take my newborn daughter to work. The Americans wrote in, glad to see change was happening, but asked, “What about the rest of us?” Here we are still asking the same question 40 years later. “

Kathryn Mayer is HRE Services Editor and Chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered achievements for nearly a decade, and her stories have garnered multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and awards from the editors of the American Society of Business Publication and the National Federation of Press Women. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Denver. She can be reached at [email protected].

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