Struggles in the Sandwich Generation

elder care benefits

The save-the-day benefits of a back-up plan

Viola Marshall had just arrived in her Austin, Texas office when the phone rang.

Her father had been admitted to the hospital with several significant health issues. His myriad conditions were thankfully treatable, but he lived alone and upon release in a few days would need someone to care for him at his San Antonio, Texas home. Ms. Marshall, who works as a controller for Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT), was momentarily frozen.

"I had no idea what I was going to do," recalls the married mother of one who lives in San Antonio but works in Austin. "Dad was going to need my help for the foreseeable future, but I couldn't just stop working.  And my job and his home are a 90-minute-drive apart. Honestly, I didn't know where to even start."

A Save-the-Day Support

Ms. Marshall was in luck. Her employer, Texas Medical Liability Trust, offers back-up care through the Bright Horizons Back-Up Care Advantage Program® (BUCA). Just days before her father's illness, she had serendipitously attended an informational session where she learned BUCA could be used for adults and elders, as well as for children. She pulled out the flyer, punched in the phone number, and within minutes had all but solved the problem of how to be at work and care for dad at the same time. "Talk about perfect timing," she says with a laugh.

Like TMLT, more and more employers are taking a look at the growing "sandwich generation" and how to help employees in it navigate challenges that impede their work lives. The AARP Foundation says there are currently more than 30-million families sandwiched between child rearing and elder-care responsibilities and the number is expected to double in the next 25 years. The issue makes waves for people on both sides of the organizational chain, exhausting employees and costing employers in lost productivity, disengagement, rising healthcare costs, and in unscheduled absences.  The latter alone, says Mercer's 2010 Survey on The Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences, costs roughly 6% of an employer's payroll per year.

But, employers like TMLT are taking note and a growing number are wisely taking action. In 2008, the Families and Work Institute found that the number of employers offering support for the care of older relatives had risen substantially, from 16% in 1998 to 39% ten years later. BUCA, says TMLT's Senior Human Resources Generalist Angela Bitzer, just made good business sense. In place since 2000, the solution all but pays for itself, saving TMLT 12 days in January 2011 alone.  "It's less expensive to get people to work than to find someone to cover for them," says Ms. Bitzer. "Plus, it's just not fair to ask one person to do two people's jobs."

Building Loyalty

While BUCA addresses the practical matter of absenteeism, Ms. Bitzer says back-up care does more than just fill chairs. "It says that we're a family-oriented company and that we try to look out for the entire person," she says.  The payoff from that kind of statementin productivity, engagement, loyalty, and an overall satisfied-employee effectcan't be overstated, and might well be illustrated by Ms. Bitzer and Ms. Marshall, each of whom has worked for the Texas group for more than a decade.

Immediate benefits are equally substantial. BUCA not only got Ms. Marshall to work, but eliminated the seemingly impossible job of finding a provider herself. That and the physical presence of an experienced, dependable caregiver made BUCA irreplaceable.

"It was a huge relief," she says. "When you work full time and you have a child to go home to and then you have to figure out how to take care of a parent, you can't overestimate the value of an extra hand."

Reliable back-up care steps in when care arrangements for children or adult relatives fall through. Find out what back-up care can do for your organization. Join us January 25, 1 p.m. EST for our upcoming webinar:  Get Your Employees to Work with Back-Up Care: The dependent-care solution that saves the day.

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.