CEO’s ‘secret life’ leads her to found caregiving benefit company
Lindsay Jurist-Rosner was 9 years old when she became a caregiver to her mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Before her mother’s illness, Jurist-Rosner’s biggest concern was getting her homework done, but in an instant her priorities changed.
This arduous and often isolating experience led Jurist-Rosner, now 39, to become the founder and CEO of Wellthy, a caregiving benefit company. Jurist-Rosner spent 28 years in a variety of caregiving roles — acting as a caregiver, advocate, nurse and therapist — to ensure her mother got the help she needed.
“It was easily the single hardest, most stressful and loneliest thing I’ve done in my life,” she says. Jurist-Rosner’s experience ultimately led to the founding of Wellthy, which helps employees who are struggling to care for ailing family members.
“For many years it was almost this secret, double life — this other job that I didn’t tell people about because I felt some degree of shame or embarrassment. I didn’t feel comfortable to share it,” she says.
About 77 million Americans are current or former caregivers, according to LIMRA research. As the baby boomer generation ages, caregiving is expected to become more common — and the costs are expected to rise.
Employers are paying close attention to their employees’ overall well-being. Some major employers are offering caregiving benefits in an effort to create positive work environments, while promoting workplace loyalty. Voya Financial and Hulu both offer employees the Wellthy caregiving benefit. Other employers including Starbucks, Amgen and Brinker International also offer a caregiving benefit. In addition to Wellthy, there are also other caregiving benefit vendors like Cariloop and Torchlight.
“Employers are really starting to tune in to these very specific topics like mental health and caregiving,” Jurist-Rosner says. “Employers are seeing the impact that these things have on the productivity and well-being of their workforce.”
Regardless, many employees keep their caregiving responsibilities to themselves. Jurist-Rosner, for example, shared her story for the first time during business school. She was going to miss some exams to be with her mother during another procedure. When she told her professors and classmates why she would be absent, their response was profound, she says.
“People started sharing their stories back,” she says. “I had professors saying ‘I’m so sorry to hear and I know exactly what you’re going through.’ I think that sparked the realization that my silent double life was in fact more common than I realized.”
Wellthy hopes to normalize caregiving by relieving workers of the administrative and logistical aspects of care — especially for families with complex chronic and ongoing needs, such as a parent with dementia or a child with autism.
Wellthy provides online help to people who are struggling to care for a family member by helping to locate an in-home aid, long-term care homes or dealing with insurance coverage.
“This has really been missing in the employer market,” Jurist-Rosner says.
Only 4% of employers offer specialized care benefits like backup child care services while 2% offer backup eldercare, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management.
Caregiving has a more pronounced impact on younger generations who are still in their prime working years, according to data from Northwestern Mutual. About 73% of millennials and 75% of Generation X say they are balancing caregiving responsibilities and their careers. Both generations — 70% millennials and 69% Gen Xers — say caregiving has had an impact on their careers. Like Jurist-Rosner, these caregivers are not sharing their burdens with their employers and colleagues.
About 24% of these caregivers say their colleagues do not know they are also providing care, according to Northwestern Mutual. Many caregivers require a more flexible work schedule.
Care-related benefits provides positive results for both employers and employees, according to SHRM. These benefits are linked to reductions in stress and caretaker absenteeism, better employee retention and productivity, and improved diversity and inclusion.
Wellthy has about 420 employers that offer the company’s services to their employees. Voya Financial, a retirement and investment management company, began offering Wellthy to its nearly 6,000 employees in March and since then the program has touched 225 lives within the Voya employee pool.
Heather Lavallee is the president of tax exempt markets and head of the Voya Cares team. She has a deep relationship with the benefit because in addition to educating employees, she also uses the program to care for her in-laws.
Lavallee’s elderly in-laws live in Florida and are struggling with serious health issues. Her mother-in-law suffered a serious medical event and her father-in-law has dementia, on top of being paralyzed.
“They really got to a point where my mother-in-law could not provide for him the care that he needed,” Lavallee says.
Lavallee and her husband live in Connecticut and weren’t familiar with Florida’s eldercare rules and regulations. Within six weeks of joining Wellthy, Lavallee says their care coordinator put them in touch with an eldercare attorney who helped them navigate Florida law, Medicaid eligibility and finding a new long-term care facility, among other things.
“This is one of those benefits where you thank your lucky stars that you have access to it,” Lavallee says. “Wellthy has been just unbelievably helpful. It’s amazing peace of mind during a difficult time.”
The response to the benefit from other Voya employees has been positive as well, Lavallee says. One Voya employee detailed a story about caring for her in-laws, similar to Lavallee’s own experience.
“Many of us are dealing with parents who are aging and having this type of issue,” Lavallee says. “It just such a peace of mind to [have] services like what Lindsay and her team at Wellthy provide.”
Many Wellthy care coordinators are caregivers themselves, so they're able to address clients' needs from a place of compassion and understanding, Jurist-Rosner says.
“There are so many others out there who are similarly struggling,” she says. “The vision was always to provide families with the support, guidance and help that they need and take things off their plate.”