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Stress on Employees with Caregiving Demands, with transcript

Larry Nisenson is the Senior Vice President, Chief Commercial Officer for Genworth U.S. Life Insurance Segment, including CareScout® Caregiver Support Services, an innovative program designed to provide expert guidance and personal support for those struggling to find the right help for their loved one.


Frank Samson: Welcome to Boomers Today. I’m your host, Frank Samson. Of course, each week we bring you important and useful information on issues facing baby boomers, their parents, and other loved ones. We have with us, Larry Nisenson, who is the senior vice president, chief commercial officer of Genworth US, Life Insurance Segment, including Care Scout, caregiver support services, who we’ll learn more about.

It’s an innovative program designed to provide expert guidance and personal support for those struggling to find the right help for their loved one. So, Larry, I just want to thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. Really appreciate it.

Larry Nisenson: Thank you for having me, Frank. I’m excited for the conversation and really love the work that you’re doing.

Frank: Oh, well, thank you. I love the work you’re doing. I mean, it’s near and dear to my heart. We had a few minutes to chat before we started here and we’re both along that same path of really helping people out there and working with companies, et cetera, and their employees. So we’re going to talk more about that in a moment, but I know that you were quite involved in a study, a National Alliance caregiving study. Can you share some of the statistics from that study with our listeners here?

Larry: Absolutely. It’s eye opening, especially the first time you hear some of the statistics. It is a lonely existence as a caregiver and most think, “Well, I’m probably experiencing this on my own.” But truthfully, what the survey showed us is there are currently somewhere around 40 million unpaid family caregivers in the US.

And if you think about that, this is the beginning of what we would describe as this sort of oncoming tsunami. That number is expected to grow upwards of 85 to 90 million unpaid caregivers. So we’re talking about currently 12, 13, 14% of the US population that are providing ongoing care for their loved ones and trying to figure it out on their own. It’s really an amazing number to look at, especially when you look at the implications on caregivers’ personal lives, their health, their employment status, et cetera and you sort of watch it filter through the rest of the economy.

Frank: Yeah. It’s a difficult situation. I know that there’s been studies done where there might be a disconnect of the employers and the employees, meaning maybe some employers don’t realize that their employees have stuff going on behind the scenes at home, with a parent or a loved one. They’re at work, but they’re not concentrating on their work as worried about what’s going on at home. It’s called presenteeism. What have you found with that? And do you think there is a disconnect?

Larry: There is absolutely a disconnect. All caregiving statistics are startling the first time you hear them, but what we call the cost of lost productivity, if you will. What does it cost an employer for exactly what you’ve described, whether it’s unexpected absenteeism, presenteeism, or as some refer to it as zombieism.

Frank: That’s a good one.

Larry: Where somebody is showing up, they show up to work, they’re physically there, but they are mentally doing 20 other things around caregivers. What is that soft cost? And what is the hard cost to employers? 50% of the people who identify as caregivers have said lost productivity is an issue for them, and they’ve had to make a choice between what they do for their loved one and what they do for the job that they also care about.

Genworth sponsors two studies that I would only reference. And your listeners can go to genworth.com and find the studies if they want. One is around the cost of long-term care. In that study, we reveal that most unpaid or family caregivers spend over $10,000 a year out of their own pocket. And I bring that up because if you’ve got people who are also missing work, so their bottom line is being impacted because they’re not earning as much, they’re taking time off. And then on top of that, they’re spending almost a $1000 a month out of their pocket, that forces an issue.

But from the employer standpoint, we find employers are just now starting to come around to understand the importance of productivity and providing some version of caregiving services. The second study I would just reference is called Beyond Dollars and Genworth’s been a sponsor of that survey for going on 15 years. And that one looks at, from an employer’s perspective through their lens, what does the cost of caregiving mean to their bottom line? And the startling number out of that is that it’s over $25 billion a year is lost productivity for the US employers. That’s not something that you’re going to just forget about.

Frank: Right. What are any suggestions that you can provide to those that are listening to this podcast, to the show, that are trying to balance their work life and having to also be a caregiver? Could be a hands on caregiver, could be even a long distance caregiver, that can be tough too. So any suggestions that you could give to those in those, in that challenging situation?

Larry: For sure. First, I want to say thank you to all of those caregivers who are figuring out how to do this credible balancing act. Most of which makes them feel isolated, alone, afraid. We certainly know that given the crazy world we’re in today of the pandemic, it’s even harder for them to be connected. And so what I encourage family caregivers to do is, number one, reach out to your company. The companies have evolved in the way they’re thinking about it too. Productivity, yes, it has a bottom line impact. As we mentioned, this $25 billion and $13 billion of increased healthcare costs for companies that are providing healthcare for their caregiving employees, that’s due to stress related medical conditions, et cetera. So again, real numbers. Employers are starting to take notice. As a matter of fact, I read an article a week ago that said one of the top five features now that employers are looking at are caregiving services and how to be more empathetic and provide a broader spectrum of benefits for their employees.

So if you’re an employee caregiver, the first thing I say to you is you’ve got to take a really bold step and let your company know. We know that statistically over 50% of the caregivers never disclose that they’re caregivers to their employers. And they don’t tell them because they figure, “What’s the point? There’s no help.” And potentially an employer is going to think of them as a less dedicated employee. They say, “My gosh, Larry is a caregiver. Is he really dedicated? Or is he going to be a guy who’s going to cut out at 5:01?” And so we tell employees now there, there are enough employers that want to help, but they need to know that the help is required. They need an employee to make that bold move. We encourage employers to go back to surveying your staff and your employees about what they really need in this changing dynamic world we live in, but caregivers have to put their hand up too.

The second thing is given the world we live in now with the internet access and all of the community forums and all of the support groups out there, you don’t have to go at this alone. Caregiving by its nature is incredibly stressful, as we make hard decisions about how our loved ones are going to be helped and serviced and taken care of. Don’t try and do it alone. Get the support staff involved, go online, find forums, go to companies like mine, Genworth and Care Scout, where we have online support communities available to help. And don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for that help.

Frank: I agree with you. You mentioned as far as employees not saying anything about their situation. But what about if they feel it’s important to have some dialogue with their particular employer? Any suggestions you have to the approach that you would have to those employees?

Larry: I do. And I appreciate the question and it is a very scary conversation to start. But you do need to make that first step and say, “Here’s my challenge,” and you’ve got to have an answer. An employer that wants to help that doesn’t have a caregiving service as an example is going to need help from that employee on what they can do. What type of assistance are you looking for? Are you looking for a more flexible schedule? Are you looking to go from full time to part time? Are you looking for your employer to add a service?

Go in with your facts, go in and schedule the meeting, not as an impromptu virtual hallway conversation or an actual hallway conversation, but set the meeting up the way you would set up any business meeting, which is, “I’d like to talk to you about X. We need this much time. Here’s what an agenda might look like.” Prep the employer for what you want to talk to and talk about so that they know what to expect in the conversation and present it the way you would, any normal business case. Here’s the problem. Here’s how it exists. And here’s what a potential solution is.

Frank: And as we both know, if that employer can provide companies like yours, like mine, these types of services, that employee won’t necessarily have to take as much time off. Because like you said before, don’t try to do it alone. This is tough stuff.

Larry: It’s funny, when we talk to people about caregiving, who aren’t caregivers, it’s a very, sort of dry unemotional conversation. But when we talk to caregivers about it, of course, all of those emotions flood into it. And it’s important to be able to keep those in check when you’re talking to your company though, but recognize that the world we live in today where most companies or many companies are employing EAPs. So they’ve got these employee assistance plans, which are meant not to be proactive caregiving services, but many of them feature sort of reactive. Maybe they have a learning library that’s available. Maybe they have some telephone support that can help you source some folks if you need, maybe for caregiving onsite, et cetera. But you’ve got to know what your company offers, know how that fits.

At Genworth and Care Scout, we help employees prep for those types of conversations by the way. We work with employees and caregivers to talk to their HR departments. We find that when we circle back to those employees that have really approached it in a logical, passionate, but not emotional conversation, that employers are really listening and wanting to help out.

Frank: Can you share with us maybe some employer resources that you’re aware of to help support caregivers?

Larry: Absolutely. I would first send listeners to our corporate site, genworth.com. You’ll find that we really focus in on education and awareness. And our mission has always been and will continue to be around caregiving and the financing of aging. So you’ll find lots of articles, a lot of conversation starters, lots of good solid information on how to be a caregiver. What are some of these difficult decisions you’ve got to make if you’re an employee, and you want to have conversations with your employer? You can start there. You can look at carescout.com, which is our care coordination and advocacy company. They also are centered in on providing really care advocacy and support for caregivers.

If you want to go to the Caregiver Alliance, they have some great stuff there as well, specifically around caregiving. And you can go through some of their tabs and links.

Frank: You’ve done a great job through the years of really analyzing costs of assisted living. As I mentioned, here we do a lot with assisted living communities and memory care, et cetera, and home care companies, to get an idea of what the costs are for assisted living, for home care, for nursing. And you guys have done a great job with that, so that’s available as well. I mean, you’re still doing that, correct?

Larry: We are. We run the Annual Cost Of Care Report, which to your point, Frank, looks at the cost of nursing home, assisted living in, in home care for literally every zip code in the country. We break it down by state and geographic area. We show trends, we show what will it actually cost. Some of the new enhancements that we’ve got on there, for caregivers and the support system that wants to understand what some of the care recipients are going through, we have simulators now built into our website that for example, can show you what macular degeneration looks like. What does it look like if somebody’s losing their eyesight? What does cataract look like in terms of the vision? What about somebody with Parkinson’s and their inability to control their motor skills?

Frank: In these situations, the question of long-term care insurance often comes up. Can you touch on that at all?

Larry: Absolutely. And I appreciate it. It is not only near and dear to my heart as my job, but as a family caregiver. What made my life infinitely easier was that my father and mother owned a long-term care insurance policy, which eased the financial challenges of aging. It didn’t take away the emotional piece of it, but certainly the financial challenges of it. We are the leading writer of long-term care policies. We sell both private long-term care insurance to individuals, and we sell to employers, a group plan that lets them offer it to their employees. And it really gets at the heart of caregiving.

Unfortunately, and I say this with wishing this weren’t the case, less than 10% of the people who will need long-term care coverage, own a private long-term care insurance policy. So while it would do a great service to many, unfortunately, most people don’t take advantage of it because they view the policy as perhaps too expensive or the old policies, which were very restrictive. The new policies these days are much more affordable and really give a wider range of options for the consumers that are looking to cover themselves.

Frank: I agree. I mean, when it used to be a standalone policy, they could get pretty pricey. We don’t have to get into the details, but it’s kind of incorporated with life insurance. You have life and long-term care, a combination type of policy, which has made it more affordable.

Larry: It really has. And these days we really look at long-term care insurance as not necessarily needed to cover the entire long-term care event, because most people want to age at home if they can. And we know that certainly the cost of aging and home is significantly less than if it’s in a long-term care facility. So we find many people who are going and just saying, “I just want to insure myself for maybe $100,000 worth of coverage or 50,000 or 75,000 or more.”

The consumer gets to choose how much they want to cover of that potential risk. And they can do it as you said, either in a standalone or through what we call a combination product that offers both life insurance and long-term care. If they go to genworth.com, by the way, they can both access that study that looks at the cost of long-term care, and if they’re interested in finding out more about the policies that Genworth sells, they can find information there as well as be connected to somebody who can help them. But I would encourage, even for those that haven’t looked at it, educate yourself. That is probably the most important thing I could sort of imprint on your audience is you don’t want to be caught unprepared. Know what is coming down the road and around the corner and then make your decisions accordingly.

Frank: Larry, I could talk to you all day on the subject matter. We only have a couple minutes left. So if you could give just any advice to someone who is now confronted with a loved one that they’re having to deal with and care for, and they’re also working full time and all of that, what, just words of advice could you give?

Larry: The first that would say is take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. And I say that because the stress level of virtually every unpaid caregiver is through the roof. And it ties into my second thing, which is, do not forget to take care of yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s an hour that you carve out. It doesn’t matter if you can step truly away, or you just get somebody to cover your responsibilities and go in a corner of your house and read a book or do whatever you want to. We know that stress related impact on family caregivers is amongst the worst outcomes. You won’t be able to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

The second thing is don’t be afraid to ask for help. It ties together to the first and second point. I just brought up. People want to help, they just need to know how. You can go to genworth.com, as I said, or care scout.com and we can help you have those conversations. And just know that you’re not alone, and you are incredibly valuable at what you do. And we are so appreciative of it.

Frank: Larry Nisenson, with Genworth. Check them out, genworth.com. Thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. I really appreciate it.

Larry: Thanks for having me, Frank.

Frank: I want to thank everybody out there as well. Just be safe out there. Talk to everybody soon.

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