Pressed From All Sides: Combating the Costs of the Sandwich Generation

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A Bright Horizons employee's unflinchingly honest account of balancing her role as a working parent and caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer's disease illustrates the difficulty the sandwich generation is experiencing.

Part of a working family with two jobs, two children, and all the associated responsibilities, she and her husband had just made the difficult decision to move her 91-year-old father-in-law who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's into their home to care for him.

There were no regrets. But it wasn't easy.

"It upended our universes," she wrote, "and we knew we needed to make some new choices."

The Cost of the Sandwich Generation

The story is becoming increasingly common, familiar to the 40-plus million people who call themselves caregivers to aging parents or other adults and a challenge to the people who employ them. Long Term Solutions, an eldercare resource firm, says that one-in-five workers age 45-74 has taken a leave of absence to care for an adult family member one-in-25 had to quit a job to do so.

That has implications for employers and the U.S. economy, which loses $25.2 billion each year due to lost productivity of caregiving employees. So providing the tools to deal with these challenges directed programs such as back-up care and access to resource providers such as Long Term Solutions, both available to employers through Bright Horizons Care Advantage are to the advantage of people on both sides of the hiring equation.

Keeping Employees from Walking out the Door

"We know this is really a huge issue for people," says Andrea Wicks Bowles, the moderator of a Bright Horizons on-demand webinar - The Caregiving Generation - aimed at providing that support. The webinar also features Noreen Guanci, CEO and co-founder of Long Term Solutions, an elder care advisor and resource provider, to talk about the practical issues of managing and finding the help employees need.

As anyone who's taken on this challenge knows, caring for an adult creates unprecedented demands and emotional challenges. Many working peoples' lives are already packed full, so adding the responsibility for an adult often removes whatever little room there might have been for R&R.

That kind of stress has implications for everyone. So employers are left with the challenge of both how to preserve performances while keeping employees from walking out the door.

Why Assistance Matters to People and Companies

And elder care needs aren't always obvious. People don't advertise such responsibilities in the way they would a new baby. So getting out in front of the need not only solves a problem, it also reminds employees they've got a place to go.

"People need to know it's OK to feel what they're feeling the impatience, frustration, guilt all of it," says Andrea. They also need to know they can ask for assistance.

Perhaps of equal import, employer support reminds employees they're not alone. 60 percent of caregivers report being employed while caregiving, meaning that on any given day, a working person can look around and know that someone in the near vicinity (perhaps in the next cube) can probably relate.

And as the aforementioned employee summed it up, "Sometimes it feels like more than we can handle. But with the backing of the caregivers and the people we work for, I can honestly say that together...we get the job done."

Bright Horizons clients make elder care available to their employees as part of the comprehensive Bright Horizons Care Advantage® program. Learn more about our elder care programs here.

What's the impact of elder care on your employees? Watch The Caregiving Generation: Tips for Caring for Aging Parents below.  A part of the Family Matters webinar series, the webinar provides practical solutions and strategies to help employees successfully navigate working while in the sandwich generation.

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.