According to a MetLife Study, nearly 16 million full-time U.S. workers are the primary family caregiver for a loved one or friend struggling with their health. In addition to taking time off from work, employees are spending millions of working hours on the phone and online assisting a loved one. Countless other hours are spent by employees upset and worried--unable to focus on work.

The time lost, per employee, can be substantial. Some of these family caregivers are helping with everything from grocery shopping, to doctor’s visits, trips to the pharmacy, housekeeping, laundry, home repairs, transportation, insurance paperwork, financial planning, meal preparation, medicine reminders, companionship and personal care assistance. Many are taking 20 or more hours each week to care for a loved one.

Many family caregivers also have spouses and children who need their time and attention, leading to classic ‘sandwich generation’ stress where they find themselves stretched beyond capacity. The MetLife Study showed that 168,252 employees have left the workforce because of the weight of their caregiving responsibilities. The replacement cost for these workers is $2.8 billion. Some workers go from full-time to part-time which is also costly for businesses forced to hire and train new part-time workers.

The cost to business of lost time due to absenteeism is estimated to be more than $5 billion. Late arrivals and early dismissals, related to eldercare responsibilities, costs businesses an additional $1.9 billion annually. And, workday interruptions are conservatively estimated to cost another $6.3 billion.

Crisis care, which can take an employee away for days to arrange services, move a loved one, deal with a hospitalization or rehabilitation facility stay costs American businesses another $3.8 billion annually, according to the study. Some companies have also noted an uptick in the number of employees taking Family & Medical Leave. Although employers are not required to pay workers who take leave, often, employees must be replaced with temp workers or personnel reassigned from other duties, accounting for another cost to business totaling $3.4 billion.

As the U.S. population continues to live longer, and, age at a rapid pace--with 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day for the next 19 years, and the 80 plus demographic also growing exponentially, the ramifications for businesses are becoming more and more critical. The good news is that there are more, and better, alternatives for caring for elderly loved ones. There are many, quality skilled nursing, assisted living and rehabilitation facilities. There are many independent senior living communities—some offering an array of services to help safeguard and improve the lives of their residents. There are adult day care facilities and support groups for seniors and their caregivers.

For families that wish to keep their loved ones home, there are bonded, insured agencies, licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health that serve seniors from just a few hours per week to 24/7 live-in care. These agencies provide services including personal care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, driving, housekeeping, medicine reminders, meals, companionship and more.

So what can employers do to protect their businesses and help their employees through these life transitions?

  • Offer flextime, telecommuting, part-time and job-sharing options when possible
  • Train leadership personnel to be sensitive to, and on the lookout for struggling employees
  • Promote wellness to all employees, and their families
  • Create a positive, pleasant work environment to reduce stress
  • Develop an ongoing education program to acquaint employees with the options and help available
  • Create contingency plans should key employees find themselves immersed in caregiving
  • Establish resources for speedy temp and permanent placements when the need arises

Total control of these situations is an impossibility. However, managing the impact of this giant wave heading in our direction can be of tremendous value to your company’s bottom line--and your, and your employee’s peace of mind.

Bob Tucker is the Senior Advocate and Client Services Leader at Senior Helpers. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field. His company provides in-home caregivers and personal assistants to help seniors live more safely and with a higher quality of life. He can be reached at 847-881-2782, rtucker@seniorhelpers.com.

 




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