The Well-Being Journal

Four Strategies for Supporting Caregivers in Your Population

Madison Agee

Employers should definitely be paying attention to the issue of caregiving, as it has important implications for the presence of chronic conditions, the propensity for risky lifestyle behaviors, increased presenteeism, lower workplace performance, and higher rates of absenteeism. While the reasons for supporting caregivers are clear, the path to actually doing it may be less so. In a recent webinar, Jim Purvis, vice president for well-being improvement design at Healthways, provided employers with four strategies that they can use to better support caregivers in their population.

These four strategies act as “pillars” to create a strong approach for caregiver support. They are:

  • Determine how caregiving is affecting your organization. The impact of caregiving can manifest in different ways within different populations. That’s why it’s so important to have good data and insights that are specific to your population. Employers may want to consider using the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being 5™, a precise survey instrument that measures, reports and tracks an individual’s well-being. It’s the only population health survey instrument that contains a specific question on caregiving that can help employers understand caregiving’s impact on their organization.

  • Understand why well-being is so important. People with higher well-being are healthier, higher performing and less costly. We’ve shown this in studies that have proven when well-being is high, healthcare usage and risk factors are mitigated, costs go down and productivity improves.
  • Ensure your programs focus on well-being and not just physical health. All too often, modern wellness programs have a hyper-focus on physical health and usually ignore other key issues that caregivers experience, such as burnout, stress, financial worries, social isolation and lack of community involvement. These “root causes” can lead to behavior choices, like poor diet, that can create negative outcomes. Well-being improvement programs that address all five elements of well-being –purpose, social, financial, community and physical – can better tackle these root causes.

Let’s take financial well-being as an example. Data from the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® reveals that it is in financial well-being that there is the largest gap between caregivers and non-caregivers. Adult caregivers younger than 44 have 17.5 percent lower financial well-being than their non-caregiving peers, while caregivers older than 45 have 9.7 percent lower financial well-being than non-caregivers in the same age band. By offering programs that include it, employers can target the element that caregivers struggle with most.

To learn more about supporting caregivers in your population, please view our recent webinar, The Costs of Caring: The Impact of Caregiving on your Population’s Well-Being.

Topics: Workplace Well-Being Caregiving Employers

Why Employers Should Care About Caregiving

Madison Agee

Shifting demographics and cultural changes are affecting the face of modern caregiving. As we explored in an earlier article, today’s caregiver doesn’t always meet the traditional image of the dutiful daughter with few outside responsibilities. In fact, data from the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® revealed that 13.4 percent of modern caregivers are employed full-time—meaning caregivers are balancing work, self-care and their own personal lives with the often daunting responsibilities of caregiving.

These multiple priorities can mean that caregivers may not be focused on their own well-being. Well-Being Index data tells us that there is a link between caregiving and well-being—caregivers, regardless of age, have lower overall well-being than non-caregivers. They’re also behind non-caregivers when it comes to the individual elements of well-being. Across the board, caregivers have lower purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being than non-caregivers (though older caregivers reach parity in social well-being).

The link between caregiving and well-being has important implications for employers. Well-Being Index data reveals that caregivers are more likely to have conditions that require expensive medical interventions, such as diabetes and asthma. They’re also more prone to lifestyle risks like obesity and smoking, which can also drive up healthcare costs.

The lower well-being of caregivers can have an impact on employers beyond healthcare costs. For example, employers may notice caregiving’s effects on presenteesim and performance. Given their competing priorities, caregivers may likely be distracted, worried and stressed while at work. In a Pfitzer-REAct/Gallup poll, 54 percent of caregivers reported that their role affects their work performance. Perhaps their caregiving role makes employees less likely to embrace opportunities that involve more responsibility, longer hours or travel, since they wouldn’t be able to provide care for their loved one as easily. In fact, results from the same poll show that nearly a quarter of caregivers say their role prohibits them from working more.

Caregiving also has an impact on absenteeism. Employees may miss work for a variety of reasons related to their caregiving role—maybe they’re taking their loved one to the doctor or providing more intensive care on a certain day. But they may also be absent from work due to their own negatively impacted health and well-being. Well-Being Index data shows us that caregivers who are working full-time miss 8.1 days of work a year—72 percent more than non-caregivers.

Recent analysis by Gallup revealed that this absenteeism due to caregiving is costing the U.S economy $27 billion a year in lost productivity. Given this astounding figure, as well as the other reasons we’ve discussed, employers should look for to support caregivers in their population—a topic we’ll address in an upcoming article. Until then, view a recording of our webinar, The Costs of Caring: The Impact of Caregiving on Your Population’s Well-Being.

Topics: Workplace Well-Being Productivity Caregiving Employers

The Changing Face of the Caregiver

Sophie Leveque

Historically, when older loved ones were in need of caregiving, they didn’t have to look very far. There was usually a close family member who could easily step into the role. But, over the last several decades, much has changed when it comes to who fulfills the role of caregiver. It’s no longer a given that a dutiful daughter will take on caregiving responsibilities for an aging parent, a shifting tide that can be attributed to a combination of demographic and cultural changes. These changes are also having a profound impact on the caregiver experience.

Some of these shifts include:

  • Shrinking average family size. Fewer children means a smaller pool of caregivers from which to draw. From the caregiver perspective, there are fewer relatives with whom to share responsibilities or turn to when more intervention is needed.

  • Geographic distance. Nowadays, people are more open to moving away from their hometowns for educational, career and personal reasons, often leaving behind their parents and loved ones. This means that older adults don’t have immediate, local assistance, and that their children or younger relatives may often be providing care remotely.
  • Evolving cultural attitudes. Traditional expectations around the duty of younger generations for caring for their older relatives are changing. For example, some cultural traditions dictated that older parents move in with their adult-aged children, but shifting norms may have mitigated some of these cultural pressures. 

  • Employment trends. Historically, daughters whose own children were grown may have assumed the caregiving mantle, but as more women have joined the formal workforce, it has become more difficult for them to take on caregiving responsibilities.

  • More single-person households. If an adult child or loved one becomes a caregiver, there is not always someone within their own household who can “pick up the slack” and tend to normal family and household management.

  • Parents having children later in life. With the age gap widening between generations, modern caregivers may have more non-caregiving responsibilities they have may have had historically. They may be in a stage where their careers need a great deal of attention, may have young children of their own, or may still be finishing school.

  • Longer life expectancies. With advancements in medicine, caregiving is no longer the temporary arrangement it may have once been. Older adults may require more care for longer periods of time.
In a recent Healthways webinar on the relationship between caregiving and well-being, Joe Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab discussed these changing demographic and cultural trends in detail. According to Coughlin, the data suggests that these shifts will only become more marked over time, which, in turn, will only make caregiving more complex.

Infographic provided by Respect a Caregiver's Time (REAct).

Coughlin discussed some fascinating insights into the changing face of the modern caregiver. As he noted, in this new age of caregiving, the caregiver can be anyone: sons, daughters, spouses, friends, or siblings. That said, studies have shown that the responsibility for giving care usually—as it has historically— falls to women. These women are typically the spouse or oldest daughter of the individual needing care and are between the ages of 47 and 57.

But unlike the stereotypical caregiver—who never participated in the formal economy or is retired—we also know that modern day caregivers are often employed. Data from the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® tells us that 13.4 percent of caregivers are full-time employees. And while traditionally caregivers have been middle-aged, Coughlin reports that today’s caregivers may be in a younger age category. As we discussed earlier, with caregivers skewing younger, they’re often working as well. In fact, the Well-Being Index tells us that nearly one in 10 full-time employees under the age of 45 is a caregiver.

As a result, today’s caregivers are often juggling the care of their aging loved ones, which for 25 percent of American families consumes more than 21 hours a week, with workplace responsibilities and their own families (see infographic). As Coughlin explored in our webinar, these multiple time and energy demands can have a dramatic effect on individual well-being, a topic we’re going to address in an upcoming article.

To learn more about shifting demographics around caregiving, as well as its link to well-being, please view our recent webinar, “The Costs of Caring: The Impact of Caregiving on your Population’s Well-Being". Our team of panelists also discussed several strategies for supporting caregivers in your organization.


Topics: Well-Being Aging Caregiving