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Blue @ Work

Understanding pressures felt by the "sandwich generation" caregivers

What do you call an employee that's the primary caregiver for both a child and an aging parent? Stretched thin. Recent stats from Pew Research Center External Site say 12 percent of U.S. parents also provide, on average, more than two hours of unpaid care for an adult, too. This so-called sandwich generation, or people who care for both a child (either dependent or adult) and a parent over age 65, faces mounting pressures that can lead to mental, physical and financial exhaustion.

According to a 2019 survey from T. Rowe Price External Site, more than a third of parents with kids age 8–14 also care for an aging family member. And nearly one-third of dual caregivers spend upwards of $3,000 per month to support an aging parent, with little to no support from social services. It's easy to see why the sandwich generation is more than three times as likely to dip into retirement savings and more than six times as likely to pull money from their kids’ college savings.

On top of that, the demands felt by this generation will continue to increase: parents are living longer (and experiencing the health issues that come with it), adult children may boomerang back home External Site in need of support, and the average cost of raising a child External Site has increased to more than $233,000.

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Parents are living longer and experiencing the health issues that come with it

Demands of this generation will continue to increase

Adult children may boomerang back home in need of support

Support for caregivers in your workforce

It's likely you have employees feeling these pressures — or may even be experiencing them yourself — and there are ways both big and small to let them know you understand.

  • Flexible scheduling, or allowing an employee to work different hours than your business' normal open-to-close hours. This may allow your impacted employees enough leeway to feel like they're able to be present when and where they need to be.
  • Remote work options become increasingly important if your employee has a parent that doesn't live locally. Even if they do live nearby, ensuring laptops can connect remotely and meeting dial-ins are available can make shuttling to and from appointments that much easier.
  • Offering an employee assistance program (EAP), which provides free and confidential services for employees and their families, could be a great use-it-when-you-need-it option to lessen pressures from personal life or work.
  • Consider strengthening your organization's family leave policy. While there is a federally mandated "floor" of unpaid leave secured by the Family and Medical Leave Act External Site, some companies are expanding their policies to include paid leave, broadening eligibility for covered situations, and providing greater flexibility for both full- and part-time employees.

Caregiver solutions available from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield

For Wellmark customers, we have solutions to help your employee caregivers, too. By focusing on meeting people where they are, we can help connect the dots and ease demands when possible.

  • Financial well-being services, like SmartDollar®, could help get your employees on the right track. The T. Rowe Price survey notes that 74 percent of dual caregivers report that caring for an aging parent causes financial strain. And, the sandwich generation is more likely to carry a credit card balance (and have a balance over $5,000).
  • Mental health services through virtual visits, like Doctor On Demand®,connect employees with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. Plus, it's available on their time, from their comfort of their own home.
  • A dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) allows employees to make pre-tax contributions (limits determined by the IRS External Site) to pay for qualified dependent care expenses External Site. Dependents are defined as children under the age of 13 and adults who cannot care for themselves.
  • BeWell 24/7SM connects your employees and their families with real people to get real help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. From meals and prescription drug delivery, to medical equipment and in-home safety, BeWell 24/7 can facilitate arrangements to ease some of the pressure your employee caregivers may feel.

Employees with bookend family responsibilities likely feel both responsible for it all and that they can't give anyone (or any task) their full attention. And while none of these options are a one-size-fits-all solution, layering flexibility and support into your organization is a great first step.

Reach out to your authorized Wellmark representative to learn more about what's possible for your organization. Or, email us at blueatwork@wellmark.com Send Email.