In March 2015, I lost my beautiful mother, Virginia, at the ripe old age of 90. The impact she had on others was clearly evident when so many friends and relatives came to help my family ‘celebrate her life’ in true Irish fashion, with just the right amount of laughter and tears.
While I will be forever grateful to everyone who showed their support at the time of my mother’s death, I often wonder what I would have done if I did not work for an organization that supported my needs as a caregiver of an adult. You see, I had the honor and privilege of being Virginia’s primary caregiver, and know without a doubt, that I could not have filled that very important role without the ongoing encouragement, flexibility and support of my employer.
What Does Providing Elder Care Entail?
Elder care providers typically provide services related to the financial, medical, emotional and physical needs of the individuals they care for. These services take many forms and can include:
- Helping with food shopping and meal preparation;
- Assisting with personal care activities like bathing, feeding and dressing;
- Providing transportation to doctor’s appointments;
- Providing companionship;
- Administering medications;
- Helping with housework;
- Researching health insurance options; and
- Providing financial guidance and assistance.
Elder care needs are often unpredictable and, in many instances, the individuals responsible for providing these services are called upon to provide financial support and/or make costly financial decisions related to providing care.
How Can an Employer Help?
As the population ages, we will continue to see more employees taking on the responsibility of caring for an older family member. To help with this, many employers have an elder care policy.
Below are some ways an employer can help employees in this situation:
- Educate and train managers on the challenges faced by elder care providers so they are prepared to support employees, while also allowing them to be productive workers.
- Offer referral services and other resources to help employees plan for their caregiving role. Some of these services may be included in an employer’s Employee Assistance Program.
- Consider subsidizing costs associated with backup in-home care in case of emergencies.
- Offer employees the opportunity to participate in a dependent care flexible spending account.
- Offer assistance and resources for employees who need help researching health insurance options.
- Provide paid or unpaid leave benefits with job protection. Keep in mind that an employer with 50 or more employees must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, and smaller employers may be subject to state laws requiring them to provide employees leave to attend to certain family responsibilities.
- Offer flexible working arrangements such as part-time schedules, compressed work weeks, job-sharing, telecommuting and flexible scheduling.
Why Should an Employer Care?
According to The MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs, employees with elder care responsibilities report more health problems than employees with no caregiving responsibilities. This essentially translates into an eight percent increase in health care costs for employees providing elder care services, compared to non-caregiving employees. In sum, affected employers are paying approximately $13 billion per year with this added burden, something which their employees are feeling too.
The MetLife Caregiving Cost Study: Productivity Losses to U.S. Business, further estimates caregiving (including elder care), costs businesses $34 billion in lost productivity per year. These include costs associated with absenteeism, work interruptions, unpaid leave, supervisory time and employees reducing hours from full-time to part-time.
Are There Benefits to Supporting Employees with Elder Care Challenges?
Yes! An employer that has policies in place supporting employees with elder care challenges could very well see:
- A reduction in costs related to health care, stress, absences and turnover;
- Improved morale and increased employee engagement resulting in higher productivity;
- Increased commitment and loyalty to the organization, which helps with retention; and
- Enhanced standing in the community in which the organization operates if it is viewed as being ‘family-friendly’.
Does your employer support adult caregivers? If so, in what ways? If not, what steps do you think you will take to help your organization understand the impact of not providing support? Leave a comment below to let us know.