The Hidden Caregivers Among Us | Caregiving Does not Take a Holiday
HR & Employment Law
| December 16, 2021
By: Chris Geehern
Editor’s Note – The following article was written by Andrew Dreyfus, President and Chief Executive Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and Alexandra Drane, CEO and Co-Founder of ARCHANGELS.
Look to your left and right. Glance in the mirror. Chances are, anywhere you look there is an unpaid caregiver who is caring for and worrying about the health of a family member, neighbor or friend.
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study finding that 43 percent of adults nationwide are in the role of unpaid caregivers – almost half of us. And we’re not ok. Approximately 70% of all caregivers reported adverse mental health symptoms, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. For caregivers doing double duty – caring for children as well as an adult – a staggering 52% report recent, serious suicidal thoughts.
Employers can play an outsized role in supporting caregivers, because most caregivers are employed. According to data on thousands of caregivers from ARCHANGELS, a Massachusetts-based women-owned startup focused on caregiving and caregiver experience research, simply knowing that respite services exist reduces stress by 70%.
And among working caregivers with “high caregiver intensity,” feeling a strong degree of support from one’s employer reduces the likelihood of depression, anxiety or high stress by 19%.
Many employers are recognizing the importance of caregiving in their benefits, work flexibility and other important policies. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts expanded child-care and elder-care benefits as well as employee mental-health programming related to caregiving. Like Blue Cross, many employers also feature caregiving issues in their Employee Resource Groups (ERGs); ARCHANGELS data consistently shows that unpaid caregivers who are members of ERGs are coping better than unpaid caregivers on average.
While caregivers may face challenges balancing their work and home lives, what is clear is that they want to work. ARCHANGELS data suggests that for many caregivers, work is actually respite for them as it reduces their risk of anxiety or depression. But they need help.
In trying to better support our working caregivers, one of the biggest challenges for employers is just finding them. Some may be engaged in caregiver support programs or groups, but many others aren’t. Most don’t even see themselves as caregivers and aren’t looking for help, even though they may need it the most.
These are the unpaid caregivers the Any Care Counts campaign is designed to reach, engage and support.
The Any Care Counts Campaign is designed to create a culture of caregiver recognition and support across the Commonwealth. Created by ARCHANGELS, with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and the Mass Caregiving Initiative, the Any Care Counts Campaign is an opportunity to reach to thousands of caregivers through technology and community networks. It’s a unique statewide collaboration, and a model that can and should be followed by other states.
By raising awareness to inspire these “I’m a caregiver” a-ha moments, then engaging them across multiple channels (because caregivers are everywhere), Any Care Counts breaks down the barriers that prevent caregivers with the highest intensity from accessing support resources. For employers in Massachusetts, Any Care Counts is a strategic way to ensure the broadest coverage in caregiver support, building on the benefits that may already be in place and guiding more people toward resources that can provide health, balance and mindfulness in the best-case scenario, and the will to ‘just keep going’ in the worst.
The Any Care Counts Campaign is just what it says – a campaign to celebrate and support the care that happens every day in ways big and small across our state… care that keeps our organizations going and our economy running.