Manage The High Cost Of Caregiver Employees

United States businesses estimate losses of up to $33.6 billion per year of lost productivity from full-time working caregivers.1 Costs include replacing employees, absenteeism, workday distractions, supervisory time, and reductions in hours from full-time to part-time. Employees find themselves having to move a parent closer to home, traveling long distances to their parents’ homes, taking them to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping and other errands. This takes its toll on all concerned.

The role of the working family caregiver is not new, however, due to the unprecedented number of people aging, it has become a national crisis. The majority of family caregivers work outside the home. In 2009, 66 million Americans were unpaid caregivers for family members or friends. Roughly 44 million of them were caring for someone age 50 or older.2

Because both employers and employees are impacted financially by this critical problem, solutions must be found that will benefit both. As I have written in a recent article (The Fall. The Call. The Talk.), talent recruitment and retention, as well as employee satisfaction, are key to a successful and productive workplace. Therefore, it is imperative that eldercare issues be addressed.

In addition, the company’s work-life policies should be in place, communicated clearly and implemented to support those who need them.

A recent study from the National Alliance for Caregiving shows that implementing eldercare programs can benefit employees and employers with worker retention, productivity, stress levels and health among workers.  Examples of programs include:

  • Referrals to eldercare resources provided through employee assistance programs.
  • Speakers from relevant caregiver resources who provide working caregivers with information at the workplace.
  • On-site support groups for working caregivers.
  • Resources for conflict resolution for family disagreements.
  • More flexible work schedules.

Maintaining a job while providing care to a frail older relative or friend can be a challenging balancing act, a financial hardship, an emotional rollercoaster, and a health risk.

Working caregivers often suffer work-related difficulties due to their “second career” as caregivers. Sixty-seven percent of family caregivers report conflicts between caregiving and employment. These challenges will continue to rise. By 2020, one in three total U.S. households is expected to be involved with caring for an elderly relative, up from one in four today.

Future employees, including Gen-Xers and Millennials, who will be caring for elderly family members at some point, will have higher expectations of their employers. These folks expect companies to care about them and to innovate. Strong work/family programs with flexible policies will help to ensure an employer’s continued attraction to younger workers in the future.

1MetLife Mature Market Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), MetLife Caregiving Study: Productivity Losses to U.S. Business (Westport, CT: MetLife Mature Market Institute, and Bethesda, MD: NAC, 2006). The lost productivity estimates are based on the 2004 survey of U.S. caregivers conducted by NAC and AARP, Caregiving in the U.S. 2004.
2 R. Helman, N. Adams, C. Copeland, and J. Van Derhei, “2013 Retirement Confidence Survey: Perceived Savings Needs Outpace Reality for Many,” EBRI Issue Brief No. 384 (Washington, DC: Employee Benefit Research Institute, March 2013).