By Marlena Hartz | forbes.com
Lindsay Jurist-Rosner had a secret. One she’d kept since she was a kid.
Her mother had multiple sclerosis, and Jurist-Rosner was her on-again, off-again caregiver.
“It took on many different forms over the years,” said Jurist-Rosner, now 38.
As she grew up, Jurist-Rosner’s role intensified from helping around the house to making sure her mom was up, dressed, and fed in the morning—all before rushing to her full-time job in marketing.
“It remains the single hardest, loneliest, stressful thing I’ve done in my life,” she said.
In her first year of business school, Jurist-Rosner’s mom was hospitalized. She couldn’t take her finals as scheduled and had to tell her professors and friends about her mom’s chronic disease. What she learned next surprised her. Many of them had stories like hers.
“It was this profound moment of connection. There were other people out there who were similarly frustrated. Why couldn’t we find a way to provide more support and infrastructure for families like all of ours?” said Jurist-Rosner.
That moment planted the seed for Jurist-Rosner’s now-blooming company, Wellthy, which helps people coordinate care for aging, chronically ill, or disabled loved ones.
Demographic trends and policy shifts have fueled Wellthy’s rapid evolution over the last four years. Nearly 400 companies, including Hearst and Snapchat, now offer Wellthy to their employees as a benefit. Similar caregiving-focused companies are also seeing a spike in demand. The 12-year-old company, Caring Transitions, which helps people settle their parents into assisted living facilities or deal with their possessions after they pass away, now has 200 franchises around the country.
“Every family has a story,” said Caring Transitions Chief Operating Officer Al Scobell.
That includes his own. When his mother passed away of cancer, she lived in New York. He lived in Indiana. Pressured by the demands of work and raising children, he and his brothers sorted through her belongings in frenzy, keeping what they wanted and tossing what they didn’t into a dumpster.
“We were distraught, and it hurt our family for a while because emotions were so high,” Scobell recalled.
Today, Scobell is proud to help other families navigate the difficult loss or relocation of a loved one in a more measured way. “Our goal is to differentiate ourselves by being the experts,” he said of Caring Transitions. “We want to make it easy on the families.”
More Americans than ever understand what Jurist-Rosner and Scobell went through. Every year, some 40 million American adults help loved ones remain in their homes for as long as possible—by assisting with basic tasks, like eating, bathing and shopping, in addition to nursing and medical tasks. About 1 in 4 caregivers in America is part of the millennial generation.
The toll of caregiving doesn’t end at home. Gallup found that the cost of lost productivity due to absenteeism among caregivers with full-time jobs is more than $25 billion annually. While women still disproportionately bear the burden of caregiving, the gap is closing, with 20% of all female and 16% of all male workers in the U.S. now acting as caregivers, according to Gallup.
Such jarring statistics help explain why more and more companies are covering the cost of Wellthy as an employee benefit, Jurist-Rosner said.
“It’s just a huge win-win,” she said. “Companies get to support high-value employees, get to improve their retention and their productivity. Employees get support, relief and expertise in this very personal, very important area of their life.”
States are also catching up. New York, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island now offer paid family and medical leave for caregivers, surpassing the standard 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees offered under the Family Medical Leave Act. At least 30 more states have introduced legislation on the topic.
“We’re just at the very early stages of talking about caregiving and its impact on employees,” said Jurist-Rosner. “I’m hopeful we’ll see this as enormous trend that just continues over the next 5 to 10 years.”