Elder-care Benefits: Why Business Owners Should Care
Most of us have been there before at work: Someone (maybe you) needs to miss time at the office because a child is home sick or has a doctor’s appointment, or a babysitter has fallen through. But what if your colleague needed to miss work to assist an aging parent? It happens more often than you may imagine. Believe it or not, an elder-care epidemic is looming in the U.S. right now.
- One in three Americans provide long-term care to someone or anticipate doing so in their lifetime.1
- One in six American workers say they help care for an elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend.2
- 70 percent of people 65 years and older will require some form of long-term care in their lifetime, according to longtermcare.gov.
The growing number of older Americans means the need for elder care will continue to grow, too; but unlike child-centered dependent care, which is usually more predictable, elder-care issues can wax and wane for decades, making it a very fluid issue for both workers and employers. Research done by Gallup in 2011 shows that caregiving workers miss an average of 6.6 days of work each year, costing companies more than $28 billion annually in lost productivity. So what’s a business owner to do?
“I think elder-care benefits will be part of the norm in the next decade,” says Dr. Alexis Abramson, a gerontologist specializing in issues affecting those over age 50. “If the company has a conscience and cares about the bottom line, elder-care benefits will be offered. Employees are going to seek out companies that offer it. Companies will quickly understand that if they don’t have the resources, it will be very difficult for workers to show up in a way that will allow them to do their very best work.”
What Are Elder-care Benefits?
Elder-care benefits are those programs and accommodations offered by an employer to help you manage getting through the maze of providing care for an aging loved one. This can include things like a flextime pool of hours in which workers cover for each other while counterparts are gone providing care, lunchtime seminars to educate workers on care-related issues, crisis counseling to deal with unexpected turns in health, respite time for the employee and more.
Why Should Companies Offer Elder care?
1. Elder-care benefits can reduce absenteeism and improve productivity. As previously mentioned, research shows that workers who are doing some form of caregiving miss more than six days of work each year on average. That missed time leads to a $28 billion loss on productivity. In contrast, Horizons Workforce Consulting, a company that assists workers in finding backup care for aging loved ones, reported in 2013 that 90 percent of the people who used their service reported improved productivity.
2. Elder-care benefits will attract and retain talent. Workers provided 37 billion hours of care worth $470 billion in 2013, according to AARP. If employees gain support from their companies to lessen their caretaking financial burdens, both sides can win; and word about the positive and supportive environment will spread quickly, says Dr. Abramson. “It’s about best practices. When you think about getting the best employees, you want to offer benefits that will help them in every aspect of their lives. It’s one thing to help them with benefits that alleviate concerns in their own lives, but it’s something else to help them alleviate stress they encounter from trying to be a caretaker for their aging loved ones. I think that’s extremely attractive to employees.”
3. Elder-care benefits can be customized to fit your workforce. The previously mentioned study from Gallup found that workers at different-sized companies desired different kinds of elder-care benefits or support. Dr. Abramson agrees with that concept, saying that not all elder-care benefits need to be costly to an employer. She suggested engaging workers, allowing them to brainstorm potential solutions. Dr. Abramson also listed some of the more common elder-care benefits currently being offered:
- Allowing employees to work remotely on occasion
- Allowing employees to use technology like Skype to check in on loved ones during the workday
- Holding “Lunch and Learn” time during which a company brings in speakers to address elder-care issues
- Allowing employees to use a few hours of paid time off to deal with an aging loved one instead of an entire vacation day
- Providing workers access to an elder-care manager or elder-care call center to facilitate advice and referrals when needed
There is an eldercare epidemic brewing in this country, but its ramifications do not need to hit American businesses by surprise. By acknowledging the realities of millions of workers and responding to that reality, companies can begin to build substantial and real eldercare benefits policies to meet their workers’ needs at a crucial time in life.
Dr. Abramson says, “If American businesses expect employees to come to work in the best condition possible, then it’s not just about health care but also providing care for those that they support on an ongoing basis physically, financially and emotionally. If you want your employees to be the best they can be, you need to take this into consideration. I think elder care is a required benefit like anything else.”
1Northwestern Mutual 2014 Long Term Caregiving Study.
22011 Respect Caregiver’s Time – Gallup, Pfizer/ReACT