Care for Adults and Elders: Employers Provide Highly Valued Benefit

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Highlights

  • The rise in the number of employees who are supporting their parents has been well documented.
  • The average caregiver spends 35 hours a week and $462 a month from their own funds caring for an aging family member.
  • Currently, 39 percent of employers provide access to information about services for elderly family members.
My mom became ill, and I am the only relative in town. Her decline came during this very tumultuous time in my career My mother had to go in and out of the hospital four times in that year, up to the point where she was no longer able to live alone, and I had to find an assisted living facility. I would not have been able to do any of this and maintain my job had I not had assistance?
Greg Giangrande, a son, a husband, father, and a senior executive at Dow Jones, relates what he describes as 'probably the most difficult, challenging year of my life.' Like many adults with aging relatives, Giangrande found himself amid an unexpected crisis when his mother needed care and he was the only one available to provide it. Fortunately for Giangrande, he was able to turn to the Dow Jones-sponsored elder care program, which provides access to high-quality, expert in-home caregivers for adult/elders when he needed it most. As the senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Dow Jones, he was instrumental in bringing the resource, Bright Horizons' Back-Up Care Advantage Program', to his organization, not knowing at the time that it would come to his aid in a crisis. I am a lifelong devotee of this program and will make sure that it is part of the offerings wherever I am in my career where I have influence over that?' Giangrande shared in a recent Bright Horizons webinar.

Much-Needed Support

The rise in the number of employees who are supporting their parents in some way has been well documented. An Evercare survey found that the average caregiver spends 35 hours a week and $462 a month from their own funds caring for an aging family member. A survey of 5,400 adults by Brightworks Partners for Putnam Investments showed that about 20 percent of workers age 45 and older financially support a parent. An earlier Putnam survey showed that 40 percent believe they have an obligation to help their elderly parents with day-to-day assistance, and 20 percent say that assistance should include financial support. In addition, 42 percent of those who are supporting their parents said that they will work for pay during their "retirement." Another 26 percent plan to delay their retirement in order to provide this support. Caring for an ailing adult or elder relative taxes employees emotionally as well as financially, which affects their productivity at work. The Bright Horizons Lasting Impact of Employer-Sponsored Back-Up Care study found that 50 percent of survey respondents are concerned about effectively balancing work and the responsibility of caring for an older, disabled, or chronically ill family member in the next one to three years. In fact, more than half of respondents with current adult/elder care responsibilities reported that stress from caregiving has affected their ability to work. That, reports the AARP, costs employers $2,100 a year in lost productivity for every full-time working caregiver.

Employers Step Up

Dow Jones realized that offering working adults a sponsored resource to care for an ailing adult or older relative lessens their financial burden and increases their peace of mind, so that they can be more successful on and off the job*. In fact, Families and Work Institute found that the number of employers offering support for the care of older relatives has risen over the last 10 years. Currently, 39 percent of employers provide access to information about services for elderly family members, an increase of 16 percent over 1998. Being an employer of choice drives the people strategies at Northern Trust and that is why the financial services company launched Bright Horizons' Back-Up Care Advantage Program in 2007. The program was in addition to their work-site child care center, which opened 20 years ago.

'Our ability to provide dependent care options for our employees fits well within our corporate strategy and mission statement, which talks about having the best employees, caring for our employee population, attracting talent, and retaining people,' explained Jeanne Ulatowski, the employee services manager at Northern Trust. 'The full employee engagement process is what we strive to have. When people join us, we want them to stay, and we want them to stay a long time.' The Advisory Council on Family Care (ACFC), a joint union/management committee of which CWA and Verizon are members, shares Northern Trust's commitment to being a great employer. Through the union, thousands of CWA and Verizon employees have access to sponsored emergency dependent care. For ACFC, the rationale for providing this resource is quite simple. 'We're in the business of offering an environment that attracts and retains the best talent,' said Anna Marie Byrne, the coordinator for ACFC. 'We provide them with tools and resources to manage real-life problems that enable them to dedicate their time to the success of this company.'

Rewarding Returns

Northern Trust is seeing a return on investment that is surpassing their expectations and projections, one that, Ulatowski said, 'more than covers the cost of the program.' Byrne reported that utilization of the program through the committee is high, earning the group a strong ROI. In the first quarter of 2009, the employees ACFC represents utilized more than 2,000 hours of back-up care. Nineteen percent of employees registered to use the adult care benefit. Besides the numbers, Ulatowski describes a 'spillover benefit' Northern Trust is experiencing, which showcases to employees what type of organization they are. 'What we have found out is people feel good about working for an organization that makes these types of commitments to their employees whether or not they can access it or can access it at that time,' she said.

'We have the life cycle approach; there is something in there for everybody. And I think that it is really important to have a variety of options and resources and services so that people can, given their stage in the life cycle, utilize something.' Byrne says it's the real-life examples of how the program comes to life that truly shine a light on its impact. 'One of our installers was in my office a couple of weeks ago and his wife had had a stroke, and he didn't want to take the time off but wanted to have the comfort of knowing that somebody was there with his wife at home in case anything would happen. We were able to arrange for someone to go out and sit with her while she was at home. So there are things like that that really make a difference in the employees' attitude toward the company as well as their union working together and coming up with such a great program.' Giangrande agreed. 'The feedback from employees has been consistent with my own personal experience,' he said. 'Many have shared their experiences and have expressed tremendous gratitude to the company for implementing such a benefit when many other companies are actually cutting back benefits. It has really touched a responsive chord in our employees.'

*Sixty-five percent of survey respondents in Bright Horizons' Lasting Impact Reports say that access to adult and elder care back-up care is important to their job satisfaction. Almost 70 percent say it makes their employer an 'employer of choice.' Ninety-seven percent say that back-up adult and elder care helps them concentrate and be as productive as possible.
For more information about Bright Horizons' adult/elder care services call 800.453.9383, ext. 1600, or e-mail clientservices@brighthorizons.com

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.