The sandwich generation dilemma

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By Jon Shreve | 01 February 2007

Baby boomers now make up most of the over-age-40 work force. The baby boomers have become known as the “sandwich generation,” often taking care of children and parents at the same time. It is employees in this age group that benefit most from having long-term care coverage available for their parents.

According to Carol Abaya of The Sandwich Generation® magazine, over 25% of American families are involved in care for elderly family members and this number is expected to increase substantially over the next 10 years. Care giving for a dependent adult in the home can be stressful physically, financially, and emotionally. In fact, there are studies showing that caregivers are less healthy and more likely to die early than non-caregivers. Providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) can require full-time effort and constant supervision. It can also put increased financial hardship on families for LTC expenses, which are not covered by medical insurance.

When the Caregiver is Your Employee

For working caregivers, the strain of balancing work plus care-giving can hurt job performance and productivity. Working adults caring for an elderly relative at home have more unscheduled absences and unexpected emergencies that interrupt their work during the day or require them to adjust their schedules. In addition, many individuals providing such care are forced to reduce their work hours or turn down additional responsibilities.

There is, however, a safety net to protect families from the financial adversity of long-term care. Sandwich generation issues motivate employers to offer LTC coverage for employees’ parents (and parents-in-law). Educating employees as to the likelihood of needing LTC and the options available is a much needed service that employers and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) could facilitate. The important facts could be imparted directly, or a collection of educational resources could be assembled and employees could be encouraged to access them. This is an issue that is relevant, and potentially critical, for both current employees with frail parents and, eventually, for employees themselves.

Ultimately, EAPs could perform an important role in helping employees understand their options, enabling them to negotiate successfully the finances and practical decisions that surround their family’s long term care needs.

Why is true group long-term care so important?

  • Many Americans will have no way to pay for long-term care services when they are needed.
  • Insurance for long-term care will not become widespread if only available on an individual basis, which means that the change will need to come first from employers.
  • Group coverage needs to include employer contributions to make it affordable to employees and vesting to make it affordable to employers.