While many employers aim to attract and retain working mothers during their growing family years, the Working Mother 100 Best Companies are focused, too, on the myriad ways women care for their extended family as well—especially elderly relatives.
Of the 43.5 million Americans who provide some kind of unpaid care, 6.5 million care for both a child and an adult, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving. These numbers will only grow as the Baby Boom generation ages and faces increasing healthcare demands.
The Working Mother 100 Best Companies meet these challenges through direct benefits like dependent care, paid time off and advocacy support. However, they also support employees’ indirect needs through programs such as workshops on navigating services, family counseling, support groups, referrals and wellness offerings. Here’s a look at top Best Companies trends related to caregiver support.
This is the last in a series of four special reports celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies initiative. In this installment, we look at topics including dependent care, counseling and health care resources at choice employers. (Click here to access past reports.)
With an average age of about 44 years, Prudential employees know well the challenges of the sandwich generation—leading to a tripling of adult care use between 2009 and 2014. To meet this demand, this year Prudential doubled its allowed hours of free backup dependent care to 200 hours per employee. The company also matches 25 percent of the pre-tax funds—up to $4,000—an employee puts in to her dependent care reimbursement account.
“Those individuals are still caring for school-age children and they’re caring for their aging loved ones,” notes Maureen Corcoran, vice president for health, life and inclusion in Prudential’s Newark, NJ, headquarters. “Very important to our employees—and us—is the care they provide to their children with special needs and aging loved ones.”
The insurance company isn’t alone. About 63 percent of the 2015 Best Companies offer subsidies for backup dependent care that includes eldercare, up from 52 percent in 2011.
Corcoran herself has tapped geriatric care services for her aging parents, including an in-home assessment by a social worker, in-home backup care as her father was recuperating from a hospitalization as well as a service called Best Doctors, which connects users to specialists who can offer second opinions and follow-up medical advice, during her mother’s illness.
“Best Doctors confirmed the diagnosis but suggested a minor tweaking of treatment,” Corcoran says, recalling how the author of the Best Doctors report impressed her mother’s physician. “He said, ‘Do you know who this man is? He’s the international expert on your mother’s condition.’ ”
A few years ago, Nancy Labiner, a vice president at financial services firm Goldman Sachs in human capital management, used a similar service to obtain expert medical guidance from her father’s hospital bedside and find other resources. “It was such a relief for me and my family,” she says, noting that as mom to 5-year old Lila Sage, she also has relied on the firm's traditional pregnancy and child-related benefits, including back-up childcare when Hurricane Sandy forced Lila Sage’s preschool to close for several weeks.
(Read about how employers can better serve their workers who care for elderly relatives in the Working Mother Research Institute's report, The Caregiver's Crisis.)
Kathleen Becker doesn’t know how she would’ve continued to work without Accenture’s flexibility. As a procurement specialist for the management consulting firm, Kathleen supports teams around the world from her home office, allowing her the flexibility to care for daughter Grace, 18, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. In addition to school, she frequently takes Grace to physical therapy, speech and language therapy and even wheelchair repairs. “I’ve had incredible flexibility to support everything that my daughter requires,” says Kathleen, a single mom who lives in the Chicago suburbs.
A few years ago, Kathleen’s mother—who often helped with Grace’s needs—received a brain tumor diagnosis, giving her about a year to live. “I was able to leverage the backup dependent care for some extra support because she couldn’t be left alone,” she says. Kathleen’s colleagues donated their paid time off, to the maximum 12 weeks allowed, so that she could take both her daughter and mother to all their medical appointments.
“In such a big company, you get a sense that you have so many people who really care and want to support their colleagues,” she says. “It helps me to give 110% back to them.”
In addition to the practical side of caring for relatives with special needs, choice employers support their workers’ mental and emotional health while they deal with these challenging situations. For example, 95 percent of the 2015 Best Companies offer emotional support counseling for special needs families, up from 79 percent in 2012.
Barbara An, an administrative assistant with the global security team for healthcare company Abbott, found therapy benefits invaluable in dealing with her son Justin, now 28, who has high-functioning autism. Shortly after Justin’s diagnosis at age 14, the family began working with an in-home therapist who helped them develop strategies for improving Justin’s social behavior and life skills.
For instance, Justin loves to talk to new acquaintances—from the restaurant server to the grocery clerk—and previously dug in his heels when Barbara or another family member tried to end these interactions. “His therapist has worked with him on that,” she says. “We just did a trip and we did not argue once. Justin followed my cues and it was enjoyable for both of us.”
Tweens and Teens
As children grow, their new stages of life can bring new challenges, which choice employers support as well. To that end, pharmaceutical company Astellas, where about two-thirds of employees shoulder both childcare and eldercare, last year launched a concierge-like service that helps families assess their needs and obtain resources.
“They do intake conversations and know the resources inside out and upside down,” says Charlotte Stanton, executive director for human resources at Astellas, based in Northbrook, Ill. “People are very stretched . . . I think more and more companies will find that as our country ages.”
Charlotte used Astellas’s college coach benefit when her daughter Caroline, now 19, was applying to college. The coach helped them narrow down higher education options to a reasonable list of stretch, just-right and safe schools, based on Caroline’s interests and transcript. Then he reviewed her essays, giving feedback on how an admissions officer would likely view them. Not only did the coaching simplify an overwhelming process, it kept Charlotte and Caroline from coming into conflict.
Charlotte is now tapping the same service for son David, 17, in his college admissions process.
Meanwhile, Katherine Gooch, a tax manager at professional services firm EY in Indianapolis, has used multiple company programs in raising her children Kirk, 24, Katie, 22, Kellie, 19, and Kris, 16. Not only was college coaching helpful, but Katherine says she has enjoys the webinars EY offers on topics like paying tuition and loans. She learned about a loan consolidation program that her older children will use. And she appreciates knowing that backup care is available for children or her 83-year old father, who is at risk for falls.
“There’s an amount of caregiving that’s done at all ages, it’s just different,” she says. “One wants a bank account and wants to learn how to drive. You’re not spoon feeding them but you are still trying to further that education. The need is definitely there.”