Papa brings on-demand caregiving support to employee benefit plans
Originally published by Employee Benefit News, April 26, 2022
Earlier this year, Bruce Akins’ mom got her first smartphone, after more than a decade of life with a flip phone. Like any good son, Akins knew the 87-year-old would need some one-on-one assistance in learning to embrace the tech tool, but he also knew that he couldn’t fly from his home state of California to Arizona, where his mom lives, just for a smartphone tutorial.
But within hours, Akins had secured the second-best solution: a “Papa Pal,” a local caregiver, who arrived at his mom’s door to help her get accustomed to her new device. Papa is a service that helps folks like Akins provide their loved ones with the support and companionship they need but might not have access to, all through the touch of an app. Akins, the director of benefits and compensation for California-based SCAN Health Plan, helped add Papa to his employer’s suite of in recent months, making this kind of support available to the company’s more than 1,300 employees.
“My mom absolutely loved [the phone training] and connected with her helper,” he says. “It’s a relief for me because I can focus on my work at SCAN, and do other things that I need to do in my personal life. We’ve all had to change and grow through this period of the pandemic, and it’s been top of mind to find new ways to support our employees.”
Since introducing the benefit at SCAN, Akins says the response from employees has been “tremendous,” and it’s not hard to see why. The pandemic exacerbated an already-growing crisis for caregivers in the U.S. Today, more than 20% of Americans are caregivers, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. One recent found that 70% of employee caregivers reported experiencing mental health issues. Meanwhile, a staggering 85% of sandwich caregivers — those who are caring for an aging parent in addition to their own children — dealt with poor mental health.
Many employee caregivers are also less financially secure than their non-caregiver counterparts. An reported that, on average, caregivers spend a quarter of their income on caregiving expenses. And the average woman over 50 who quits work to care for a parent loses nearly $324,000 in lifetime wages and benefits.
These are the problems Andrew Parker, Papa’s founder and CEO, is hoping to help solve. He launched the service in 2017 after watching his own mother struggle to balance her career while providing care to her ailing father — whom Parker affectionately calls Papa.
“I thought it would be an interesting way to help [my grandfather] with what we now call a Pal,” says Parker. In relieving the caregiving burden on his mother, Parker says, “Papa was a way to kill two birds with one stone — or at least help two birds.”
Through Papa’s app, loved ones can access one of 40,000 nationwide Papa Pals — all of whom receive training through “Papa Pal University” — to transport elderly parents to doctor appointments, or take care of grocery shopping. They can also provide much-needed companionship for older adults who may be housebound and struggling with isolation. In addition, Papa Pals can watch employees’ young children during the workday, get them to and from school or daycare, provide basic tutoring, and even prepare meals for the week.
With 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s caring for aging parents while also raising a young child, there’s plenty of need for a helping hand, Parker says. Most employers, he adds, understand the value in creating more flexibility and support for their workforce. “[With Papa], employee caregivers don’t have to take days off so frequently to support their family members,” says Parker. “[Employers] want to help their workers first and foremost, but they’re also eager to see people being more present and focused at work.”
For Parker, Papa is a way to help workers and their loved ones lead happier and healthier lives by tapping into the power of kindness. “We’ve really established a new kind of care that’s built on human connection,” he says. “That’s what the world needs right now, and we’re happy to be here to support it.”