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Employee Caregivers Are Quitting. Here’s How to Keep Them

These days, we’re flooded with headlines about The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, and The Great Reshuffle. It’s not surprising. The desire for career advancement and better work/life balance are powerful reasons why people are resigning in record numbers. But these aren’t the only motives. Actually, a growing number of people are quitting so they can take care of loved ones. If your organization can’t afford to lose these employee caregivers, this advice can help you keep them on board.

Factors Driving This Trend

We’re seeing more employee caregivers, partially because the pandemic put older people at risk and disrupted existing family care arrangements. But also, it is the result of broader population shifts and the rising cost of long-term care. Let’s look at how this could play out over the next 15-20 years…

1) Our Population is Changing

Historically, if you mapped our population by age, the chart would look like a pyramid. In the past, many more young people were at the base. As they became adults, they helped support a smaller number of older people at the top. Today, that pyramid is inverted, with a larger elderly population and an increasingly smaller base of young people at the bottom who struggle to support the elderly. This is happening because:

  • Boomers are aging
  • Younger generations are producing fewer children
  • Medical advances are extending life expectancies

This inverted pyramid means that by 2040, the elderly will depend more heavily on the working population than those under 18. Put differently, in less than 20 years, more of your employee caregivers will be supporting elderly loved ones, rather than their own children. Or potentially, they could be caring for both at the same time.

That’s already the case for many employee caregivers. In fact, more than half of middle-aged Americans are currently “sandwiched” between generations.

2) Caregiving Costs Are Rising

Because care is expensive to provide, not everyone will be able to hire professionals to look after aging family members. Instead, they’ll need to provide care themselves at home. According to a recent AARP survey, there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. and 80% of these caregivers are providing care to an adult family member or friend.

This means organizations will increasingly have employees who are juggling job performance with the burden of being a caregiver—along with all the time, energy, and emotional commitment that caregiving requires. While they may manage caregiving by missing time at work, it could also be as serious as leaving the workforce altogether.

For example, consider these statistics:

How to Support Employee Caregivers

What are forward-thinking HR leaders doing to help employee caregivers? Our recent conversations focus on three key action areas:

1) Provide Financial Solutions

One of the most important ways to support employees is by helping them plan for their own long-term care. While younger employees may not see the need, education and planning now will offer them more care options in the future if they’re injured or become ill.

When you create financial programming, be sure it includes discussions about the role of:

  • Medicare and Medicaid – Some people see government programs such as care options. However, they typically don’t cover long-term care (Medicare) and access involves significant drawbacks and limitations (Medicaid).
  • Retirement savings/401k – Similarly, using 401(k) and retirement savings to pay for care is possible, but this also comes with drawbacks. These investments are best reserved for funding life expenses during retirement and are not recommended for use during working years.
  • Standalone long-term care insurance – This coverage may be offered at work or purchased through an independent insurance provider. It can be a viable solution that can help cover some costs of long-term care.
  • Hybrid life insurance with long-term care benefits – This lets people purchase life insurance coverage that includes the ability to advance part of a death benefit for care needs. Many products on the market focus care benefits on professional care such as a nursing home or home health aide, but new products in this category cover family caregiving, as well.

2) Promote Your Employee Assistance Programs

Another way to support your workforce is through an employee assistance program (EAP). The right program can help employees navigate the challenges they face as caregivers. Whether it’s offering care planning tools and strategies or access to tools to help people manage complex aspects of care, be sure to consider a wide range of resources. For instance, you could include:

  • Care planning services
  • Care needs assessments
  • Help in finding and evaluating care
  • Life insurance claims support
  • Long-term care claims support
  • Home care placement assistance
  • Legal support for wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents
  • In-home loneliness solutions
  • Home modification services
  • Relocation support

Finally, it’s important to share details about your EAP program, and re-communicate the program’s features and benefits on a regular basis. Pairing this with enrollment or re-enrollment of your financial support solutions is a great way to protect your employees.

3) Pay Attention to Caregiving Legislation

Many state governments are taking notice of the need for care—the growing number of people who need a solution, the lack of affordable care, and the expected future drain on state Medicaid funds. A growing number of states are enacting legislation to address these care issues.

For example, in 2021, Washington became the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The Washington Cares Act provides long-term care financial support for state residents. The program is funded by a payroll tax. Employees with qualifying long-term care coverage could opt out of the program (and the associated tax).

Although this legislation may provide a rough blueprint, each state’s approach is likely to be different. To prepare their organizations and their employees for the future, employers should begin tracking legislative activity.

Start Planning

It’s hard to know precisely what’s in store for employers as more Boomers leave the workplace and younger employees step in to care for aging loved ones. But thus far, it’s clear that employee caregivers will need support and solutions as they navigate an increasingly challenging eldercare crisis.

HR leaders can be an essential part of the solution, but it’s important to start planning now. Workplace programs and policies need to evolve, with active involvement from employers and their employees. Start by educating your workforce about the need to plan for long-term care–whether caring for an elderly parent or planning ahead to manage their own care should they need it. Working together with employees to address their needs will help them understand your commitment to them, and encourage them to stay.

Those Employees With Financial Wellbeing Keep The Workplace Pumping

“Big money got a heavy hand
Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul…”

Rush, Big Money

Throughout commencement on that warm May morning over two decades ago I thought, I did it. Not the traditional seamless timeline of 4ish years, but I did it nonetheless. The first one in my immediate family to do it in fact. I did it and received a Bachelors of Arts degree in psychology with a minor in anthropology from San Jose State University. I financed most of it myself, working full-time at SJSU during the latter half of completing my degree.

But there were loans involved in bankrolling my degree. Not an excessive amount, but somewhere north of $15,000 worth of loans during those frenetic college years. In economic comparison, the full time job I had at the time with the university paid about $30,000 annually.

The future looked brighter than ever. I had my degree, I left the university job for one in the exciting world of high-tech marketing and the dot.com boom – all was well in my world.

Until it wasn’t and I was swimming in other debt plus the student loans and lots of other life choices hitting the skids.

As the saying goes – life happens and not all the choices we make work out – but I made it and fortunately many people with similar stories did and do as well, especially since we’ve had two economic busts within the booms since. But today student loan debt had increased dramatically. With smaller savings (if any) and continually rising tuition, there are over 40 million Americans with at least one outstanding student loan, which is up from 29 million consumers in 2008.

Of those, the average student loan balance is about $30,000 per borrower. For those who finish graduate school the total can be over $80,000. Medical school debt is twice that or much more. Today the nationwide student loan debt is at an all-time high of over $1.2 trillion, an 84% jump since the great recession, according to a study from Experian, which analyzed student loan trends from 2008 through 2014.

Plus there’s the fact that “student loans surpassed home equity loans/lines of credit, credit card and automotive debt.” Yet, for the millions who struggle with student loan debt, not many loan relief and repayment programs have been available to these borrowers, unlike those with underwater mortgages over the past seven years.

There is the Federal Student Aid website that provides resources and recommendations on how to manage and repay federal loans, which accounts for the majority of student loans, but otherwise repayment and refinancing programs have been limited.

Dan Macklin, co-founder and vice president of the nation’s second largest marketplace lender called SoFi, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that the student-lending market is a very strange one indeed. When he and his co-founders started SoFi about four years ago – which offers mortgages, personal loans, student loan refinancing and more including free services for employers and employees – they looked into the market and there was no one refinancing federal student loan debt at the time. In fact, they almost didn’t launch the company because they thought there must be a reason there weren’t any lenders offering these services.

Financial wellbeing has finally gained traction in the workplace and I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few startups in the space years ago, GuideSpark being one of them. According to a survey by benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt, more than 90 percent of 250 large employers said they want to introduce or expand their financial wellness programs this year. These programs have been on the rise and help employees understand and manage their personal finances, save money for emergencies and employ strategies for dealing with economics ups and downs.

The impact of debt can be overwhelming. Add to that the instability of the job market and the world of work and life become a pressure cooker affecting productivity, psychological and physical wellbeing. Too many student loan debtors are delaying saving for retirement until they’ve paid off their debt, which seems like it’ll never happen and exacerbates helplessness exponentially.

More and more companies obviously do great things (and creative things) around 401K, retirement planning, financial wellbeing and other healthcare benefits, with HR taking the lead here. Cost-benefit analysis of higher education aside, the reality is that when you come out of college with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, you’re probably more worried about that for the first few years or even decades and getting that off your back until you’re really able to think about starting a family, buy a house, retirement and so on.

Big money may have no soul, but it’s always been a means to beginnings, middles and ends. Those employees with financial wellbeing keep the workplace pumping.