We talk a lot about what working parents need from their employers. While this is an important area of focus for business leaders looking to tap into the full potential of today’s employees, it’s not the only area deserving about attention.
Did you know that more than 34 million American adults provide unpaid care for someone age 50 or older? About 60 percent of those caregivers are working full-time jobs, and a significant number are also providing some kind of support – be it financial, emotional or physical – for their children.
This is what we call the “Sandwich Generation.” They’re the millions of Americans who are “sandwiched” between their children and aging parents, providing some level of support for both. Add work on top of the family responsibilities and they’re so pressed we should probably call them the Panini Generation.
July is Sandwich Generation Month. In recognition of those who are pulled in every direction imaginable, we’ll share a few reasons why it’s in a company’s best interest to take care of employees who are taking care of aging loved ones.
The Work-Life Struggle is Real
Many senior caregivers have to make adjustments at work due to family responsibilities, resulting in absenteeism, lost productivity and even turnover issues for their employers. In Care.com’s senior care survey, we learned 68 percent of senior caregivers reported missing work, while 66 percent have rescheduled appointments due to their parents’ needs. And that’s to say nothing of the impact stress and distractions have on their performance and productivity at work.
A Growing Trend
Providing supports to help employees meet senior care needs is becoming more and more important. By 2035,more than 11 billion people, approximately 13 percent of the global population, will be over age 65. As more people live longer and birth rates stagnate, the “old-age dependency ratio” – which is to day the ratio of older people to those of working age – will grow even faster. Here in the US, we’re projected to have 44 people over 65 for every 100 between 25 and 64.
Looking for Support
Senior caregivers are keenly aware of the impact on their job performance. More than 35 percent of respondents said worrying about their aging parent or loved ones has affected their overall performance at work. However, more than 40 percent of respondents said their current employer does not provide elder care assistance programs through its employee benefits.
To recap, large and growing population of American workers are “sandwiched” and struggling to balance work and senior care responsibilities. The so-called Silver Tsunami means we can expect a lot more employees will be shouldering senior care responsibilities. If organizations don’t start preparing, we could be looking at our next corporate crisis.
So what can you do about it?
Unlike becoming a parent -- when you have roughly the duration of a pregnancy to prepare -- senior care needs aren't easy to anticipate and often arise suddenly, such as after a fall or when an in-home caregiver calls out sick. For many Sandwich Generation employees -- especially those without family care benefits -- supporting an aging loved one often means missing work unexpectedly. When a company has a culture of flexibility in place, an employee won’t need to worry about what people are thinking when she leaves early to take her father to an appointment or works from home while mom recovers from knee surgery.
Find Ways to Help Employees Talk about Caregiving Responsibilities
Minimize the Stigma
Senior care, as all end-of-life issues, is a deeply personal and difficult topic to approach. Employees can be uncomfortable opening up when taking care of their parents causes their job performance to slip a bit. But if you can educate employees with informational programs, like lunch and learn sessions or expert seminars, you can can help ease their discomfort and prepare them for future needs.
Introduce Senior-Friendly Benefits
Senior care benefits are becoming more common in the workplace, and for good reason. As the population ages and prevalence of incurable diseases like Alzheimer’s continues to increase, more employees will need to take advantage of employer assistance than ever before. Services like senior care planning, elder care referral services, and backup care can help employees feeling the pressure of caring for an aging relative.