Updated: Jan 10
It is estimated 1 in 5 individuals in the workforce has a care role alongside their career. This has some pretty steep costs to both employees and employers. This is how businesses could be addressing our nation's care crisis.
Impacts of Care on Productivity and Retention.
You have more employees with care roles in your workforce than you realize.
Employees caring for a loved one with a serious illness or disability (often who is aging) represent a significant segment of the labor force, 18% to 22%, with anticipated sustained growth over the coming years.
You’re losing money due to lost productivity.
When unsupported, these employees contribute to losses in productivity, to the tune of a national average of 11%. Why? Care tasks like filling prescriptions, healthcare appointments, and communicating with health professionals take place during the typical 9AM to 5PM work day. It is estimated that employees with care roles can lose up to 1.5 work days a week because of the juggle between work and care tasks.
You’re at risk for losing key talent.
On average, elder care takes 21 hours a week of your employees’ time outside of work. With a part-time job in their laps, the juggle becomes more than many can manage alone. Because of the high out-of-pocket costs, employees are spending 20-44% of their income on elder care needs. Many family caregivers simply decide to leave the workforce altogether.
This is a DEI Issue.
Supporting employees with care roles is a critical piece to inclusive benefit solutions.
Care is full of inequities. Too many to address in one post, but here is a condensed list of a FEW businesses could be addressing now.
Gender inequities - women shoulder family care responsibilities more often than their male counterparts.
Currently, 67% of individuals providing unpaid care to a loved one are female-identifying. Women are more likely than their male counterparts to carry the responsibilities of care. In fact, if we painted a picture of what a typical "family caregiver" in the U.S. looks like, it would be a working woman, with children, also caring for aging parents. Two big challenges this places on women are emotional stress and how much of their time is being consumed by juggling a career and care. It’s no wonder working caregivers seriously consider quitting their job (20% do) or reducing their hours (44% do).
Inequities for People of Color
Black and African American Caregivers
Individuals in the Black and African American communities provide more chronic care than other demographics. Aging Black and African Americans have more chronic conditions like heart disease, complications from stroke, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s/dementia, and diabetes. This means that employees from these communities find themselves caring for longer periods of time.
American Indian and Alaska Native Caregivers
Individuals in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities experience higher financial strain when caring for their elders. These communities face unique difficulties facing financial situations and paying for elder care expenses.
Hispanic employees experience the highest difficulty coordinating and arranging care services for their elderly loved ones. Many times health professionals and health services are not positioned to effectively translate care needs into this community’s native language or cultural contexts.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Caregivers
Individuals in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities face significant barriers accessing affordable health insurance and quality health services, contributing to health disparities as major chronic health conditions often go undiagnosed or untreated.
Southeast Asian American Caregivers
Individuals in the Southeast Asian American community are caring for elders that have limited English proficiency rates (as high as 90%) and may be affected by traumas of war, resettlement, and recent mass deportations. This promotes distrust in formal care services making care difficult.
For all employees within the above communities, care functions within a context of familism. Familism is the subordination of personal interests and prerogatives of the individual to the values and demands of the family.
Those families within the middle-socioeconomic class have the most financial strain when caring for aging loved ones. With Medicare only covering hospital care, doctor visits, and skilled-nursing level care and Medicaid’s eligibility parameters making it difficult to obtain without losing substantial assets, middle-class families are often caught in a catch 22. They end up paying significant sums of money out-of-pocket.
Important contexts for LGBTQ+ elder care is recent history. Being gay or queer was considered a mental illness until the 1980s. Marriage equality only happened in 2015, and went under attack again in 2022. LGBTQ+ elders have not experienced tolerance, therefore caring for them has unique challenges. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community rely on families of choice to provide care. Families of choice still struggle to have rights to medical, financial, and legal information to provide good care. Because of intolerance, many LGBTQ+ elders have fear of healthcare services, making it harder to get them the care they need to age healthily. Even now, many senior communities don’t have the education to provide safe places for LGBTQ+ elders.
It is important to consider the likelihood that employees fit within more than one of these identities. The highest likely picture of an employee with a care role is that they are a working woman of color in the middle-socioeconomic status. She is presented with a compound of care challenges.
How can businesses get started?
Provide a care-friendly work environment.
Create a safe space for employees to self-identify as someone with a care role. Currently 70% won’t mention their care role out of fear that if their leaders know it will negatively impact their career. If they don’t feel safe to talk about care, they can’t access supports you may already have in place.
Take a look at current supports and leverage them for employees with care roles.
Does your EAP offer free financial counseling or mental health services? Both these services can help face the financial strain and the stress of care. Could your FMLA policy include time off to care for an elderly parent? Could flexible work schedules put in place during COVID-19 be repurposed?
Start investigating the addition of strategic external supports.
There is a surge of direct support entering the employee benefits sector focused on care. Some offer robust resources to employees. Some provide concierge services to walk alongside employees on their care path. Some provide one-on-one care coaching, while others provide group education and support. There are also technology solutions that help relieve a variety of specific care challenges. Find ways to work with these businesses.
Could you provide discounts to your employees to access these services?
You may be surprised at how inexpensive it is to adopt these types of benefits for all your employees.
For example, Elder Care Solutions has developed a fintech (financial technology) to guide families to a more financially-positive caregiving and aging experience. It strategically supports employees with elder care roles, as well as older workers planning for retirement. We're priced very low so we can be used in tandem with other care supports.
The Problem Isn't Going Away.
A September 2022 study reveals that employees that care need more help from their employers. The study, co-sponsored by Homethrive, Home Instead, and Certification in Long-Term Care, titled “Following The Journey of Family Caregivers” indicates that 70% of family caregivers fear they’ll have to leave their jobs if they don’t find more support.
Family caregivers make up 18% to 22% of the current workforce, with anticipated and sustained growth over the coming years
Without support from their employers, family caregivers contribute to a national average of 11% loss in productivity.
Family caregivers spend on average 21 hours a week on care tasks, including time within the 9 AM to 5 PM workday.
Family caregivers spend on average $1000 a month on out-of-pocket care expenses, or an estimated 40% of the paycheck you give them
Despite these facts, nearly 80% of employers are not offering caregiving benefits for their workforce.
HR professionals are facing unprecedented benefits challenges. Strategic benefits are a valuable tactic for combating the Great Resignation, a huge contributing factor of which was the number of employees balancing their career with care demands. Employees are looking at benefits packages more than ever. Something that will clearly stand out are key supports that help balance this major life stage.
AARP. “2020 Report: Caregiving in the U.S.” (2020)
Diverse Elders Coalition. “Caring for Those Who Care.” (2021)
Forbes. “Caregiving Is Crucial: How To Support Caregivers And Why It Matters So Much” (2021)
Morningstar. “100 Must-Know Statistics about Long-term Care: Pandemic Edition.” (2020)
Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers. “Working While Caring: A National Survey of Caregiver Stress in the U.S. Workforce”. (2021)
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