The 85-years-old and older sector of the American population is growing rapidly. Living longer, despite modern healthcare advances and a higher standard of living, doesn't necessarily mean living a longer independent life. The elderly population still have a broad range of health and personal care needs. In most cases, it will be a still employed spouse or an employed child or grandchild that will be responsible for providing this care.

Most research on such circumstances show that a large percentage of workers are either solely or partly responsible for the care of an elderly loved one. In fact, 35% of those that participated in a recent National Study of the Changing Workforce by the Families and Work Institute said that they had provided care for an aged relative within that year. According to The Family Caregiver Alliance, around one-third of American households are caring for a loved one. Of those caregivers, a third to half are employed.

Being a caregiver is a multifaceted role. Aside from the emotional distress of watching a loved one mentally and physically deteriorate, the caregiver has responsibilities from monetary and legal matters to finding appropriate long-term or elder daycare services. It shouldn't be surprising that caregivers often find themselves overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed.

This can spell disaster for a caregiver with the dual role of being an employee as well. The stress and so forth often spill over into the workplace. In regard to productivity, a recent study performed by MetLife showed that the negative impact of this dual role costs American employers around $11.4 to $29 billion each year, with annual direct productivity losses of $1,142 or more per employee.

These losses can take many forms - work hours being used to make personal telephone calls related to medical appointments, care services, or gathering information about government or private assistance programs; unplanned absences; utilization of personal days, personal leave time, and vacation time; emergency situations that interrupt or halt the workday; and distraction, stress, and exhaustion decreasing work quality and safety. Another common source of loss is from the employee resigning to attend to the loved one on a full-time basis. According to the Family Care Alliance about 12% of employed caregivers will eventually quit, thereby causing a turnover cost to the employer.

The above issues often arise suddenly, which leaves the employer and employee limited, if any, time to plan for their losses. Employees having caregiver responsibilities in addition to their work responsibilities isn't something that's likely to change. In fact, as the population ages, it's likely to become an even more frequent occurrence. Since employers can't change the occurrence, the focus should be how to best balance business and employee needs.

One solution may be eldercare programs. While traditional eldercare programs are most often found in larger companies, a business of any size can find supportive methods of assisting with the care-giving role of their employees. Employers should listen to what their employees actually need; research has shown the following are most important to employees in caregiver roles:

  • Location of work flexibility (such as telecommuting)
  • Hours of work flexibility
  • Assistance in finding needed services (such as referral services and resource networks to help the employee identify eldercare providers, support groups, and elder law professionals)
  • Dependent care accounts
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)

In closing, whatever form of eldercare support is offered, it will be virtually useless unless the employees are aware of it and feel secure using it. A recent MetLife survey showed that a mere one-third of employees were aware of what eldercare services were offered by their employer. The survey suggested the unawareness might be due to the fact that they weren't a caregiver when they were first employed or when the program was first announced. Employees that do know about the services offered often fear being labeled if they utilize them. So, it is important to make sure employee privacy is protected.

Need insurance for You, Your Family or Your Business?
We can match you to a qualified, local insurance expert!
Further Reading
Moving, divorce, welcoming a new child, a major illness or the death of a loved one are all life crises that affect your coworkers from time to time. Support a hurting coworker in five beneficial ways. 1. Arrange regular meals. During a cr...
News flash: An estimated half of all working caregivers identify emotional issues as their main cause of stress. In a survey by ComPsych, 46% of respondents described dealing with emotional issues as their major cause of stress, while others cited...
My grandmother once told me that she would save her allowance all month to walk three miles to the soda fountain for a single milkshake. From ready-made foods at the market, to the fast-food drive by, to diet pills purporting instant and effortless w...
As a grocery store employee, you expect to get a regular paycheck. However, you may also be eligible for a variety of employee benefits for grocery stores employees. Here's a partial list. Healthcare Access a variety of healthcare options, incl...
Cybersecurity is an important concept for all employees to prioritize. New hires are especially vulnerable. These tips ensure your new employees are prepared to prioritize cybersecurity. Learn to Identify Suspicious Emails and Links ...