A Growing Population Means a Growing Number of Caregivers
Christin Kuretich, Director, Product & Innovation, Trustmark Voluntary Benefit Solutions
It’s an impossible spot to be in at times – balancing the care needed for a loved one with the regular responsibilities of work and family. Regardless, the world of caregiving has expanded. This growing, aging population that’s living longer and developing more chronic conditions has impacted many employees, in particular, the “sandwich generation,” (employees with young children in the house, also caring for elderly parents). And now, 1 in 6 U.S. employees are living dual roles as a silent caregiver.1
The challenge facing employees and employers
When you consider the time and energy that employees have to dedicate to caregiving, it’s easy to see how an employee’s performance at work can be impacted. On average, employees spend four years in the role of caregiver while providing 24 hours of assistance every week. As a result, caregivers miss six to seven extra days of work each year and, on top of missed time, cost about 8 percent more in healthcare spend ($13.4 billion per year).1
Supporting caregivers in the workplace
The evidence of a stressed-out caregiver can present in many different ways, and 56 percent of employees report that their work supervisor is not aware of their caregiving responsibilities.1 This could be an issue if they feel they are not being supported or their manager simply does not understand their situation. But, not to worry, there are a number of ways that employers can help lighten the load on caregivers and, in turn, create more productive employees.
- Offer products and resources that can assist with medical advice and decision-making to help find the best treatment and care, as many caregivers assume this responsibility and spend countless hours making these decisions.
- Research and offer voluntary products that provide caregiver benefits, long-term care options and/or financial assistance.
- Offer flexible schedules.
- Provide manager training on the topic to help raise awareness.
- Present lunch n’ learns on the topic to help employees understand what resources are available, ways to cope, and/or what you are doing as a company to help their situation.
We hear you loud and clear
Manager training on this topic, in particular, has come to light recently to help recognize cues. For example, an employee who frequently paces the halls on the phone could be listening to a doctor’s prognosis for his loved one. Or he may take his lunch break in an empty conference room to coordinate transportation for a parent to the doctor or ensure meals are provided for the week. Many employees try to shift into “work mode” as best they can, but productivity can suffer under lack of sleep or overwhelming stress.
Benefits for employees
Starting to change the workplace culture as a place of understanding, awareness, and support is a great first step, but caregiving is also a matter of dollars and cents. To help, some insurance policies, offer benefits for caregivers that come in handy when juggling the financial burdens of caregiving. For example, when researching what consumers wanted most in a critical illness policy, 55 percent stated that caregiving was a top priority, and 68 percent said they would spend extra to purchase a benefit for caregiving.2
At the same time, consumers stated that access to a resource for medical advice was also a priority. In fact, more than half said that guidance on treatment for their loved ones was extremely important.2 Offering access to benefits of this kind can help show employees you are behind them.
The future of caregiving
As people live longer and expenses for elderly care remain high, the need for caregiving is going to grow. Employers should be looking at options to support the rising population of caregivers in their workplace. A change in workplace culture, including a larger understanding of the topic and options for financial protection or additional benefits are all important steps employers can take to address this changing employee landscape.
1The Caregiving Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities for Employers. Northeast Business Group on Health. March 2017.
2Trustmark independent employee survey, conducted by The Connell Group, April 2015.