The plight of the caregiver and how a financial wellness program can help
Jean, a longtime employee with a track record of dependability has recently started to miss work, is distracted and always seems tired. Jean’s manager has noticed these changes but isn’t aware of Jean’s growing role as caregiver. Jean’s aging mother is now requiring increased daily care and her adult son, struggling to afford his student loan debt, has recently moved back in with Jean and her husband. Jean is a member of a growing population of American workers who are supporting adult children, caring for an aging adult or, as in Jean’s case, supporting both at the same time. About one in seven middle-aged adults, known as the Sandwich generation, provide financial support to both children and aging adults.1
Forty-two percent of U.S. workers have cared for an aging adult in the past five years. This number is expected to increase up to forty-nine percent in the next five years.2
Almost thirty percent of adult children ages twenty-five to thirty-four live with their parents.2 An alarming number of parents, at least fifty percent, say they’ve gone into their retirement savings to financially assist their adult children.3
Impact on the Caregiving Employee
Providing financial support for her son, caring for her mother, spending time with her husband and working full-time is taking a toll on Jean. Caregivers spend an average of twenty four hours per week providing care.4 She is stretched thin and both she and her husband are feeling increasingly strapped financially. Jean is dealing with burnout. The daily demands of trying to be a good spouse, parent, daughter, and employee are too much and Jean’s own health is starting to suffer. Caregivers often face a sense of isolation and loneliness, emotional states that can lead to heart disease and stroke.5
Impact on the Caregiver’s Employer
While managers may notice the change in an employee’s work performance and increased absenteeism, they may not know the reason why. Like mental health, there is a stigma associated with caregiving. Twenty-three percent of caregivers surveyed experienced a workplace stigma in being a caregiver.6 Employees fear this label could negatively impact their careers. Only a little more than half (fifty-six percent) of caregivers report their work supervisor is aware of their caregiving responsibilities.7
Employers of caregivers are impacted by absenteeism and tardiness. Forty-nine percent of caregiver employees are either absent, tardy or leave work early based on caregiving responsibilities.8
Healthcare costs are impacted. Caregivers cost employers an estimated eight percent more—or $13.4 billion per year—in healthcare costs than non-caregivers.9
Add these factors to lost productivity and the expense of recruiting and training new hires to replace caregivers who leave their employers, and the cost to organizations becomes nearly $38 billion annually.10
How can employers support caregiving employees?
Employers can help their caregiving employees by first recognizing the signs such as a sudden increase in absenteeism, or the appearance of being frequently distracted or tired at work. Remember, due to the stigma of being a caregiver, many of these employees aren’t going to be forthcoming about the challenges they are facing. Next, review all of your employee resources and put together an overall solution to help support these employees.
How can offering a financial wellness program help caregiving employees like Jean?
A financial wellness program can help support caregiving employees where they are more uniquely affected in the four financial pillars of spend, save, plan and borrow.
An account aggregating tool that links all of the employee’s financial accounts in one place will help the employee quickly see where their money is being spent and what is being saved. Because accounts are linked, time isn’t spent monitoring multiple accounts (or worse, having no visibility), and employees are in a better position to set spending limits on their children. By setting up account alerts and automated bill payments, they’re able to save time and reduce the risk of late payments.
A prepaid card could help the caregiver with providing their adult children set amounts for spending, reducing the need to visit an ATM.
Educational courses can help them plan for the growing needs of the adult they care for. Caregivers often need to understand what it means to be a financial caregiver, with responsibility for legal matters such as updating wills, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney and healthcare directives. They also need to be aware of potential elder fraud.
For caregivers with adult children, education regarding student loans as well as student loan services may lessen the family financial burden. For caregivers who also have younger children, courses about saving for college and 529 plans could be helpful.
It’s also important to provide education and budgeting calculators pertaining to 401(k) plans. Help your employees protect their retirement savings by arming them with the tools to make informed decisions. If your financial wellness program includes financial solutions such as early wage access or short-term emergency loans, make sure your caregiving employee knows of these options before a 401(k) is raided.
Caregiving employees need the support of their employers. Being able to understand the challenges placed on these individuals can help to identify which of your employee benefits they could utilize. No benefit offering will solve all the employee’s challenges, but financial wellness solutions can very well reduce the burden while showing you care.