Taking care of elderly relatives or friends affects many people’s health as well as their employers’ bottom lines. According to the MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs, employees in the United States who care for older relatives are more likely to report health problems. These health problems, including depression, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, cost employers an estimated average additional health care cost of 8 percent or $13.4 billion annually.
Produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute with the National Alliance for Caregiving, in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Aging, the report also found that younger caregivers (ages 18 to 39) cost their employers 11 percent more for health care than non-caregivers, while male caregivers cost the most — an additional 18 percent.
The study also found that for some, eldercare is closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Aggravating the potential impact to employers is the possibility that these medical conditions may lead to disability-related absences.
Employees with eldercare responsibilities had more missed days of work than non-caregivers. Caregivers have more unplanned absences. A lack of focus on their work due to distractions, like phone calls and care coordination, compromises job performance.
In addition to practices like flexible hours, paid time off (PTO) and telecommuting, the report contains suggestions to connect their care giving employees with wellness programs to help reduce employees’ stress, positively affect health and provide the needed support.
Younger caregivers also demonstrated significantly higher rates of stress-related diseases — high cholesterol, hypertension, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), depression, kidney disease and heart disease in comparison to non-caregivers of the same age. Employed caregivers have more difficulty than non-caregivers taking care of their own health or participating in preventive health screenings. They need workable solutions to be healthier and perform better. By anticipating and responding to the challenges of eldercare, employers can provide support to their employees, while reducing their healthcare costs.
Our forecast: Smart employers will look for more creative ways to support their care giving employees, including flex time, flex place and administrative support to handle the administration of care-giving.
To see the entire study, visit www.maturemarketinstitute.com.