Study Reveals Top Employee Caregiving Challenges Employers Need to Understand

Caregiving has been labeled a national health crisis by the National Alliance for Caregiving. According to a Gallup-Healthways survey, over 20% of employees are providing traditional caregiving to family members. As a result of their caregiving responsibilities, 70% report work-related difficulties and as many as 70% struggle with depression and other health issues. Caregiving also costs U.S. businesses $38.2 billion annually.

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Torchlight has been working with employee caregivers since 2011. We began to observe trends and shifts, many of which did not align with the traditional definition of caregiving. “Caregiving” is the state or disposition of tending to a loved one’s often complex array of care needs. In order to understand the care issues causing stress and cost for American families, we analyzed data from a sample of more than 18,000 users over nearly 3 years. Key findings from this analysis are outlined in our 2018 report “Modern Caregiving Challenges Facing U.S. Employees.

“Caregiving” Much Broader Than Previously Defined

The traditional definition of “caregiving” limits itself to “diagnosis,” “illness,” “age,” or “disability.”  This definition ignores an important segment of the population that is also managing caregiving activities every day. This is problematic.

Today’s care is a complex maze of social, educational, legal, governmental, financial, medical, digital, and logistical choices. Caregivers seldom include in their definition the additional daily life challenges that require care and attention. Some of the most stressful situations involve everyday occurrences, such as extensive homework time, appropriate elder nutrition, teenage isolation, family dynamics, cyberbullying, or understanding government services. These circumstances, whether acute or chronic, often impact a family as much as any diagnosis or disability does. They can significantly impact an employee’s physical health, well-being, finances, focus, and physical attendance at work.

Demographics Around Modern Caregiving

To solve care challenges, our data reveals that knowing the demographic nuances of the loved one matters most. For instance, the actions required to resolve an eldercare problem vary depending on the location of both the elder and the caregiver. Similarly, knowing the cognitive status of a loved one impacts care decisions. A child’s age and status of diagnosis matter, as well as where they live and their school district. A few other influential demographics revealed are:

  • 36% of employees are long-distance caregivers adding complex travel time/expense, childcare arrangements, and other considerations.
  • 88% care for a loved one who is “aging in place” adding concerns such as finances, legal decisions, and safety.
  • 60% of children diagnosed with a specific issue do not have a formal educational plan.
  • 85% of users report that their children do not have a disability or diagnosis.
  • The top three reported diagnoses are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (21%), autism spectrum disorder (15%), and anxiety (11%). Yet, 22% of children are diagnosed with other highly specialized situations that require highly specialized expertise.

The data reveal that to effectively solve modern-caregiving issues, it’s necessary to look deeper than the national statistics around Millennial, Generation X, and Baby Boomer employees in the workforce.

Top Challenges Surrounding Elder Care

Currently, approximately 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care for loved ones over the age of 50.  With the U.S. population aging rapidly (by 2030, more than 60% of the population will be over 65) the need for caregivers is expected to increase. Our study illuminates that employees struggle with a variety of adultcare issues:

  • 60% of the elderly family members have medical or mental issues.
  • Over 50% of elderly family members have self-care issues: manage medications; nourish, bathe, or dress themselves.
  • Over 40% of elderly family members have financial crises due to poor estate planning; poor veteran assistance information; or misinformation around reverse mortgages, Medicare, Medicaid, or social security resources and rights.

We also found that many employees are dealing with elderly loved ones who are managing difficult daily life because of a diagnosis. An employee seeking information about Alzheimer’s not only needs to know the course of the disease, but also issues such as handling unsafe driving, rehoming a beloved pet, approaching a death and dying conversation, or aligning an estate plan to maintain eligibility for government benefits.

Top Challenges Surrounding Child Care

In 2016, 34.2 million families included children under age 18. Among married families with children, 61.1% have both parents employed.  School, extracurricular, and technology changes have added additional stress to the majority of these families. Our analysis underscores that employees struggle with a variety of diagnoses and daily issues regarding their children:

  • Even though 85% of users’ children are not diagnosed, they are struggling with significant issues with school behavior and schedules.
  • 35% of parents are highly concerned with their children’s friendships and social skills, bullying, and cyberbullying.
  • 66% of parents are concerned with supporting the success of their children in an age of screen time, social media or gaming addictions; creating self-esteem; and providing support for kids who identify as LGBTQ+.
  • Over 25% of parents reported concerns with their children’s depression, anxiety,  behavior, or substance abuse.

Support Preferred by Modern Caregivers

Our data revealed that working caregivers today fall into three distinct categories related to how they want assistance:

  • 78% prefer to have help initially but then manage their caregiving journey independently.
  • 11% prefer full-time assistance from start to finish in their caregiving journey.
  • 11% want to manage their caregiving journey entirely on their own.

The majority of employee caregivers solve their caregiving challenges in and around their work obligations. The data show that an employer cannot offer simply one solution method to its workforce to address its underlying modern caregiving concerns.

As the urgency to address the caregiving crisis grows, employers can do more than “check the family benefit box.”  Some modern caregiving issues impact many families, and others impact just a few. Yet, all struggles have far-reaching consequences for employees and their families, which an employer can help them address.

Adam Goldberg, MEd, is the CEO and founder of Torchlight, an intelligence-based digital platform that identifies the most appropriate resources and cost-effective services for employees navigating caregiving challenges for all ages.

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