ARTICLE | PRIORITIZING CAREGIVER SUPPORT

Positioning Caregiver Support Alongside Other Key Cost Drivers

Key Takeaways:

  • How Donna Gibson, Staff VP of Benefits at Elevance Health analyzed data on claims, leaves of absence, and retirement withdrawals to understand the impact of caregiving on both employees and cost drivers
  • The importance of evaluating existing benefits and making changes to align with employees’ day-to-day challenges, rather than simply offering “trendy” perks
  • How to engage employees through surveys and actually ask your employees questions to uncover hidden priorities and gather valuable insights

In today’s workforce, caregiving remains seriously underrepresented in traditional benefit plans. Although there are more than 53 million caregivers in the US, less than a third of employers provide formal caregiving benefits. As the workforce reels from the lasting changes and effects of the pandemic, benefits leaders have more on their plates than ever before. With an overwhelming amount of information from point solutions vendors, it’s no surprise that an innovative benefit such as caregiver support has remained on the sidelines. But this reality continues to grow in scale. By 2034, adults 65+ will outnumber children under the age of 18 for the first time. Employers must be ready to support this growing number of caregivers with inclusive and comprehensive resources.

But with so many competing priorities, how can benefits leaders recognize when caregiving should become a focus, and how can they effectively prioritize alongside other initiatives and cost drivers? Donna Gibson shares how she took this on for Elevance Health employees.

"First, you have to be willing to take a good look at what you're offering and figure out what's working and what's not working and be willing to make some changes."

The most effective benefits leaders, like Donna, recognize that although it can be tempting to offer the latest “trendy” perk or benefit, make sure everything you invest in actually aligns with what employees need to address their day-to-day challenges.

 

Getting to this information is easier than you might think. Donna says, “Just ask. Once we asked, we listened and learned. The data told us [caregiver support] was something we needed, and was a hidden priority among our employees. So I would say, ask questions about caregiving in things like your associate surveys and ask people when you get the chance to talk to them. People will share their stories.”

Because employee survey data isn’t always the most comprehensive or reliable, Donna also shares other ways you can identify caregiving needs. “Look at claims data, leaves of absence, hardship withdrawals from 401k/retirement accounts. Find out why these things are happening.”

 

These are strong indications that caregiving is no longer competing with your major cost drivers– but is likely a significant cost driver in and of itself. Caregivers have less time to focus on their own needs and deal with significantly higher levels of stress and anxiety. So, it’s no surprise that 60% of caregivers report an impact on their own overall health, leading to higher costs for employers.

 

In conclusion, addressing the caregivers in your employee population will become critical for benefits leaders in supporting their workforce and optimizing their cost drivers. With a significant gap in formal caregiving benefits and the growing number of caregivers in the workforce, now is the time to take action.

 

As a trailblazer in her industry, Donna shows us that when employers start by asking the right questions, the underlying and authentic needs of employees will come out.

  • Start by evaluating existing offerings and making necessary changes to align with employees’ day-to-day challenges.
  • Engage employees through surveys and conversations to uncover hidden priorities and gather valuable insights.
  • Supplement anecdotal data from employee surveys, analyze claims data, leaves of absence, and retirement account withdrawals to understand the impact of caregiving on both individuals and costs.

 

By recognizing the toll caregiving takes on caregivers’ health and acknowledging it as a significant cost driver, employers can implement comprehensive caregiver support programs to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment. It is time to act and provide the necessary resources for caregivers, benefiting both employees and the organization.

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