Caregivers Need Wellness Too

August 14, 2019

When employers think about wellness benefits, they usually have their employees’ well-being in mind.  They often think about employee health in terms of actions, such as being more physically active or eating better, an individual can take to improve their well-being. As a result, companies often ignore the impact an employee’s loved ones may have on their health, especially when those loved ones are in poor health.

LIMRA, a life insurance and market research association, found that 43 million Americans act as an unpaid caregiver for a family member and that half of these caregivers also have full-time jobs outside the home. Whether taking care of a sick child or elderly parent, employees are affected as well and not just during the caregiving period. 


Employees Struggle To Balance Work And Caregiving

Four in 10 employees had to take unpaid leave or reduce their working hours to take care of a sick family member, and three in 10 turned down a promotion because of caregiving responsibilities. For some employees, trying to balance work and caregiving becomes impossible and has significant implications, as evidence by the data from LIMRA below.

  • 22% of employees quit voluntarily
  • 18% had their employment terminated
  • 13% retired early


Finances Impacted By Caregiving Responsibilities 

Due to decreased work hours, 25% of employees lost job benefits such as medical insurance or retirement. As employees lose benefits, the bills to take care of a family member do not go away. According to an AARP survey, 78% of caregivers have out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving, spending an average of $7,000 per year.

With 54% of employees saying that they are stressed about finances, the added weight of caregiving expenses only increases the worry.


Impact On Wellness

Employees who try to perform well in their jobs and provide care to family members can face constant stress, which eventually takes a toll on their well-being. A global survey by Embracing Carers revealed that unpaid caregivers sacrifice their own health to take care of others.

  • 54% said they don’t have time to book or go to their medical appointments
  • 55% feel their physical health has suffered
  • 47% have feelings of depression
  • 57% feel they need medical care for a mental health condition related to caregiving


How Companies Can Support Employee Caregivers

Although a company cannot make a sick family member well, leaders can look at ways to support the caregiving employee. Employees have long said the benefit they want most is free time. Companies that offer flexibility in when and where work gets done make it easier for employees to take family members to doctor appointments during the day or to work from home when a child is sick.

Backup care is a rare offering among companies but one that is badly needed. For example, even though organizations may offer onsite childcare or childcare benefits, if a child or sitter is sick, there are no options but for the parent to stay home. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), in 2017, only 3% of companies offered backup child care services and 2% offered backup elder care services.

As the population ages, the issue of caregiving will only become more urgent. When companies think about their wellness program benefits, they should look at what employees need through a holistic lens. Consider the challenges they may face that affect their work and health—even beyond the office walls.

Topics: Corporate Wellness

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