Today, caregivers are being called “America’s invisible health care workforce,” and there is a strong business case for supporting caregivers in your workforce:
- More than 65 million family caregivers in this country provide care for a chronically ill or aging family member or friend or a special-needs child
- Of these caregivers, 64% were employed
- It is estimated that U.S. employees who are caregivers have 8% higher health care costs than non-caregiving employees. This is primarily due to a tendency for the caregiver to neglect their own personal care and effectively manage stress.
- $450 billion is spend out of pocket annually by family caregivers to help provide care to a loved one
- Nearly 30% of U.S. adults at any given time is providing care to a family member or friend
- 78% of caregivers want more help or information about caregiving topics, but don’t know where to turn
According to Gail Hunt, CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, the three most daunting stressors caregivers face include:
- Managing the financial liability – Eighty percent of long-term care is provided for free. On average, America’s unpaid caregivers spend more than $5,500 annual out of pocket on their loved one’s needs. Medicare only goes so far even in best-case situations, and the financial responsibility of providing long-term necessities such as a ramp, ongoing therapy, a special bed and medication often lands solely on the caregivers shoulders.
- Balancing work and family – Sixty percent of caregivers are also employed, and they often have to make workplace accommodations like arriving late, leaving early, or using vacation or unpaid time off to care for their loved one. It is not uncommon for a person to be forced to quit their job or retire early in order to be a full-time caregiver. It’s an exhausting balance trying to do a good job at work while taking care of themselves and their children, as well as the special care recipient.
- Navigating the systems – Learning the ins and outs of health care is no simple task. First, a caregiver must figure out how to get the quality medical care their loved one needs. Second, they must also fill the non-medical but equally essential needs such as arranging transportation to and from an appointment.
According to a MetLife study, the costs of employee caregivers to businesses are two-fold. One is the cost associated with absenteeism and presenteeism – which MetLife found to be around $34 billion annually. The other is the higher cost of health care associated with employee caregivers, up to 8%.  According to a study by MIT, it’s
estimated that those making $38,000 per year may use nearly $200 per
month on eldercare, such as medicine, transportation and groceries.
Nearly 1 in 4 American families
provide some form
On average, caregivers spend
hours a week
on elder care
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
For an employer, understanding the number of employees this issue affects, can allow them to better address it. Many times, however, employers overlook the issue as they don’t make the connection between employee productivity and these social stresses outside of the job.
To support employees who are also caregivers, a company can provide the following:
- Information on available elder care services in or near their work or home
- Policies that provide flexible work schedules
- Targeted education on financial planning to support those wanting to balance retirement needs with needs of either their elder parents or adult children
- Aligning the company’s benefits policies to support employee utilization of key programs and services
Studies show that employed caregivers have a greater sense of well-being than unemployed caregivers. As the U.S. population continues to age, the “sandwich generation” (e.g. caring for aging parents and children still at home) will continue to grow. It’s time for employers to begin supporting employees who are also caregivers – not only to maintain employee productivity, but also for the emotional and financial well-being of their employees.