The 2015 Northwestern Mutual C.A.R.E. (Costs, Accountabilities, Realities, Expectations) study found that emotional costs of caregiving are substantial, with experienced caregivers reporting feelings of tiredness (45%), sadness (31%), and anxiety (32%) “often” or “all the time.” Almost 60% say that “caring for two adults between 85 and 90 would be more difficult than managing two children, ages 3 and 5.” Such stress can take a toll on workplace performance (focus, engagement, and productivity), causing some employees to resign.
The financial costs of caring for an older person are sizable, as well, and deserve attention. The C.A.R.E study uncovered how two-thirds of Americans say that responsibility for caregiving expenses would have a negative impact on their finances; 38% said they had not set aside funds to cover these costs.
Close to 40% of Americans are actively taking care of “someone aging, ill or with special needs (other than a child) or have been a caregiver in the past.” Of this group, 60% have jobs, and three out of five manage their workplace and caregiving responsibilities by reducing their hours or taking a leave of absence.
Employers are in a unique position to help. Financial resources offered at the workplace, in addition to improving employee well-being and enhancing retention, offer the promise of reducing financial stress for working caregivers. Here are some examples:
- Case management services to assess, coordinate, and implement a care plan that provides a safe environment and quality of life for the person needing care.
- Financial planners who provide expertise to manage financial concerns and prepare for the older adult’s financial future.
- Allowances, vouchers, or subsidies for caregiving services that cover part or all of the cost of services. (Some organizations (23%) offer wage compensation, such as direct hire of service providers for respite, home health, nursing, or backup elder care.)
- Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and dependent care flexible spending accounts (DCAPs) that allow pre-tax income to be used for the care of an aging parent or other eligible family members (FSAs and DCAPs not only benefit employees but also provide tax advantages to employers). These are among the most common types of employer support, with 67% of companies providing them.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and Worklife programs offer access to knowledgeable professionals who can provide support and expertise around elder caregiving issues and referrals to community sources of support.
- Reimbursement for care expenses while employees travel (offered by 17% of organizations).
These options can work in conjunction with other types of employer-provided assistance, such as workplace seminars and Employee Resource Groups.
Whatever the strategy, the objective is to enhance the purchasing power of employees caring for an older adult and reduce their financial burden. Employers who pay attention to the financial concerns of employees who are family caregivers can make a tremendous difference in these workers’ lives and increase workplace engagement, productivity, and retention.
Learn more about Employer Solutions for Family Caregivers
Founding Director of the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN)