Improving Care and Support for Employees who are Caring for Others


Nicole Nicksic, PhD, MPH
Research Lead

The aging population, changing workforce demographics, and soaring health care costs place enormous burdens upon U.S. employees who juggle work responsibilities with providing care for an elderly or ill family member. A study published in Health Affairs estimates that Americans give up approximately $67 billion in wages to fulfill caregiving duties. That number could more than double by 2050 to $132–$147 billion. With the current pandemic likely compounding caregivers’ challenges, we could arrive at that level of costs sooner.

Today, IBI released a research report on the health and productivity implications of employees who provide informal care for an elderly loved one. An analysis of two nationally representative datasets (The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey 2017-2018 and the American Association of Retired Persons’ Caregiving in the US, 2015) gives insights into how providing care for an elderly adult affects employees’ well-being and work performance, and how work policies might affect their work outcomes.

We found that nearly one in five employees provide care to an aging adult and are more likely to take leave than employees who are not caregivers. They are also more likely to need leave but not take it when compared to their non-caregiving counterparts. The more instrumental activities of daily living (IADLS) such as managing medicines and finances caregivers performed for elderly relatives, the more physical, emotional, and financial strain they reported. Providing care within their own home particularly increased financial strain. Caregivers with more financial stress or worse health were at a higher than average risk of receiving warnings about their work performance and attendance.

Work policies such as paid leave and flexible scheduling may allow caregivers to take the time off when needed. Yet our analysis shows that these policies do not fully alleviate the burden of caregiving. Programs and resources that aid with specific caregiving tasks could also relieve some burdens while helping maintain health and work productivity. A deeper dive into our findings is discussed further in the research report.

It is not surprising that employed caregivers experience stressors that can negatively affect their health and performance at work. Beyond paid leave and flexible scheduling, many employers do not have a coordinated strategy to support caregivers and preserve their productivity. Experts in IBI’s member community offered their own guidance for developing comprehensive approaches in the report, including:

  • Incorporating targeted caregiving assistance programs such as concierge-based services or vendors that provide back-up family care as part of a comprehensive caregiving benefits strategy.
  • Developing proactive communications about available caregiving benefits.
  • Asking employees about their caregiving needs—and listening to what they say.
  • Making advance preparations for long-term leave to support caregiving under pandemic and other emergency conditions.

For more details, please join me on Wednesday, August 19 at 10:00am PT/ 1:00pm ET for a webinar where we’ll dive deeper into the findings and discuss guidance for creating environments that safeguard employee well-being and a promoted a balance between work and caregiver responsibilities.