Health+Benefits Vital Signs the June 2021 issue

Your Employee Caregivers Are Struggling

Q&A with Yanela Frias, President, Prudential Retirement
By Tammy Worth Posted on June 1, 2021
Q
How has COVID-19 changed the landscape of caregiving in the United States?
A
Caregiving has always been a significant challenge for many of America’s workers, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated it. The closure of schools and daycare centers due to COVID imposed new childcare demands on families, which disproportionately fell to women. This has had a financial impact, not only in the form of lost wages but also longer-term consequences in the form of loss of employer-provided and Social Security retirement benefits.
Q
What has the financial impact been on caregivers?
A
The financial impact has been significant and will be felt for years to come. Sixty-one percent of working caregivers say helping loved ones has impacted their employment, while 53% report going in late, leaving early or taking time off to accommodate a loved one. And for the more than 32 million people in our country that do not have access to a single paid sick day and the four out of five workers who don’t have access to paid family leave, caregiving has accelerated financial wellness issues. Workers have been forced to choose between caring for themselves or a sick loved one or earning a paycheck. And as I mentioned earlier, the lack of wages today means the loss of employer-provided and Social Security retirement benefits, which can impact long-term financial security.
There is a large disparity today regarding access to paid family and medical leave, with low-wage blacks and Latinos and people working in small businesses less likely to have access.
Yanela Frias, President, Prudential Retirement
Q
What are other effects of caregiving on their workforce that employers might not easily see?
A

In many cases, the responsibilities these working caregivers have has accelerated mental health and workplace productivity issues. Research has shown there is a strong correlation between mental health issues and caregiving: 92% of caregivers report heightened stress, and 62% report dealing with sadness or depression.

For the more than 15% of American workers who provide ongoing care for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly person, the anxiety and stress is likely even higher than for caregivers who don’t work. And to put the 15% figure into perspective, I’d argue that the number is likely much higher.

Many people who are caregivers don’t necessarily identify themselves as “caregivers.” They are simply just doing what needs to be done—taking care of their loved ones. In this pandemic, we are seeing many people for the first time having to homeschool and take care of their kids while working remotely. This also adds to caregivers’ stress and has the potential to impact their mental health.

We also know from research that there is a direct correlation between financial stress and caregiving:

  • 67% of caregivers miss work or take unpaid leave.
  • Caregivers spend on average $825 per month on caregiving expenses.
  • Caregivers cost employers $3,200 per caregiver per year.
  • Costs include lost productivity, missed work, family leave, retention issues and discrimination cases.
Q
There has been a lot of reporting about how women, in particular, have had to leave the workplace or step back dramatically to care for children learning virtually.
A

Yes, the impact has been greater on women and people of color. Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are women and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males.

Working moms have arguably been hit the hardest during the pandemic, as many have taken on new caregiving roles due to school and daycare closings and supporting their children with remote learning. Women also represent a significant percentage of the “essential” workforce (service jobs, healthcare, etc.) that cannot telework, making caregiving responsibilities even more difficult to juggle.

[Editor’s Note: More than 50% of the “essential” workforce in the United States is made up of women and, according to a New York Times data analysis, women of color are the most likely to be working in essential jobs. A vast majority of women hold healthcare positions including nursing, respiratory therapists and pharmacists. They also overwhelmingly work the checkout lines at grocery stores—another essential job.]

Statistics have shown that about 20% of women with children under 10 years of age consider leaving the workforce due to their caregiving responsibilities. And one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of childcare and other challenges due to COVID-19.

For people of color, the challenge has also been significant. Latino and black American caregivers experience higher burdens from caregiving and spend slightly more time caregiving on average than their white or Asian-American peers. Black Americans are also less likely to have access to paid leave, making them even more vulnerable to being financially impacted due to caregiving responsibilities.

Caregiving’s effects on the workplace, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.

  • A majority of people who report being caregivers in the labor force are between the ages of 45 and 64. These people are often providing care for their aging parents.
  • About half of the workforce expects to be providing care to elderly parents in the coming years.
  • Caregivers over the age of 50 who leave the workforce early lose approximately $304,000 in income and benefits over their lifetime. That is higher for women, who lose an average of $40,000 more than male caregivers.
  • The price of caregiving is also higher for employers. It is estimated they pay about 8% more in healthcare costs for caregiving employees than non-caregivers. This adds up to about $13.4 billion annually.
  • Working caregivers of older family members have reported having less access to workplace flexibility than people who needed time off or flexibility to care for children.
  • Work accommodations requested by people giving care to an older adult include:
    • Time off during the day: 64%
    • Leave of absence: 17%
    • Quitting a job or early retirement: 10%
    • Reducing work hours or taking a less demanding job: 9%
    • Turning down a promotion: 5%
    • Any of the above: 68%
Q
What are some of the main needs of caregivers right now? Have they changed because of the pandemic?
A

I wouldn’t say the types of needs have changed because of the pandemic; however, I would say more workers are finding themselves in a caregiving situation, so more people have needs.

The first critical need is more universal access to paid family and medical leave. There is a large disparity today regarding access to paid family and medical leave, with low-wage blacks and Latinos and people working in small businesses less likely to have access.

Caregivers often need support sourcing childcare providers or in-home aides as well as support with education and transportation. This is especially important for those caring for individuals with illnesses. They have to coordinate doctors visits, medications, medical records and transportation.

Q
How can employers best help their workers who have taken on caregiving roles?
A
Providing caregiving support and tools is not only helpful for the employees but also for the employers. Caregiving responsibilities impact an employee’s productivity and may even lead to employee turnover if they choose to leave the workforce because of these demands. Employers can help by providing paid family and sick leave and by providing tools and resources to help their employees manage caregiving responsibilities.
This has had a financial impact, not only in the form of lost wages but also longer-term consequences in the form of loss of employer-provided and Social Security retirement benefits.
Yanela Frias, President, Prudential Retirement
Q
Talk a bit about the Prudential/Wellthy partnership and why your organization decided to take part now.
A

Wellthy is a leading provider in the caregiving space, so we have partnered with them to incorporate their suite of digital and concierge caregiving services into Prudential’s financial wellness offering.

The goal of this partnership is threefold. First, we want to reduce the impact of caregiving responsibilities on employee productivity. Second, to help organizations retain employees and, third, to support the financial wellness of caregivers.

Research shows that caregivers are more likely to feel financially stressed, miss work due to caregiving responsibilities, and be less prepared for their own retirement. This new partnership will enable Prudential to offer no-cost access to Wellthy’s digital caregiving tools, which include educational content, digital care plan creation, storage of digital caregiving documents (prescriptions, medical records, wills, etc.), access to a shared calendar to track appointments, and the ability to establish a group caregiving discussion.

Q
What is the role of the care coordinator through Wellthy? How important is that kind of person to a caregiver?
A

The care coordinator acts as a knowledgeable support system to help with the many unique needs that a caregiver may have, like:

  • Sourcing and vetting in-home aides and childcare providers
  • Evaluating insurance coverage for home safety modifications
  • Setting up meal-delivery services
  • Identifying in-network physical therapy providers
  • Arranging transportation to/from appointments
  • Setting up calendars for appointment management
  • Assisting with financial claims and billing support (liaising between medical providers, hospitals and Medicare)
  • Researching local eldercare attorneys specialized in estate planning.
Q
How does assisting with caregiving benefit employers?
A
With an aging population, more and more adult Americans will become caregivers to their elderly parents. I think as this happens, employers will better understand the business case and, frankly, the business imperative for providing these solutions, as they will greatly help with their workforce management strategy and to retain and attract talent. From the employee perspective, I do think it will become more of an expected offering.
Q
Is this particularly true for women in the workforce? Has the pandemic highlighted their issues more than ever?
A
Without access to caregiving support, working women are at risk for being financially impacted because of a decrease in retirement savings, particularly if caregiving responsibilities ultimately force them to leave the workforce. Better financial and physical health should be within reach for everyone regardless of race, background or socioeconomic class.
Tammy Worth Healthcare Editor Read More

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