Employers can go beyond traditional benefits when it comes to caregiving needs

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NEW ORLEANS — Advisers should prepare for uncomfortable conversations with their clients around caretaking and advanced care benefits and end-of-life planning if they want to ensure those benefits bring value to their employees.

“The goal is to have an overarching plan in place for when any of us are in imminent danger of dying and what we want that plan to look like,” Stacy Gallagher, an RN clinical consultant and agent with Physicians Mutual Insurance, said at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance conference. “What kind of decisions can we think about ahead of time so that burden is lessened on our families?”

Paid time off for caregiving responsibilities are an in demand benefit, as 70% of working Americans are burdened with caregiving responsibilities. Employers including Levi Strauss, CenturyLink and Sun Life all offer employees this specialized benefit.

But employers are not doing enough to prepare workers for the prospect of becoming caretakers or creating that end of life plan, Gallagher and her peers on the panel said. Advanced care planning is a way to assist employees in preparing for an unexpected health crisis, offer end of life security and save employees and their families on the cost of legal services.

“There is no one who is exempt from an unexpected medical diagnosis, a critical accident or a health crisis,” said Michael Gallagher, a senior adviser and agent with Physicians Mutual Insurance Company. “Be prepared to have a plan so that you can address those situations if it happens to yourself or a loved one.”

Only one in five employees have some kind of plan or a living will in place, Gallagher said. While the value of an advanced care planning program extends to all five generations in the workforce, millennial and Gen Z employees may need greater education on the subject than their older colleagues.

Gallagher utilizes what he calls the longevity health plan, which focuses on planning for acute and extended care needs.

“You can now bring an added value service to that organization and talk to them about creating a program so that in the event of a health crisis or an accident there is a plan in place that employees can fall back on,” Gallagher said.

The sandwich generation — those caring for children and older family members — make up 60% of the workforce, according to research by MetLife and Pew Research Center. These employees are looking for unique benefits that can help them manage the various stressors in their lives, said Alexis Jacobs, a partner relations coordinator with Aging with Dignity, a national non-profit organization.

Jacobs’ organization also created the Five Wishes at work program: an employee health incentive program that helps workers create a plan of care for both themselves and their families, while also providing all of the materials needed by the employer to successfully implement the program.

“The workforce is aging rapidly, people are staying longer and retiring later. So there is more of a need to put these kinds of plans in place,” Jacobs said. “Caregiving has a huge impact on the workforce… and that is where advanced care planning comes in.”

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