Something is costing American businesses an estimated $33.6 billion to $47 billion a year, MetLife Mature Market Institute says, and there are some simple and low-cost ways for your business to decrease the impact of this on your bottom line.
Every business is facing new challenges today, and the businesses staying healthy in this environment are the ones that are paying attention to new trends and learning how to adapt. One of the recent phenomena being recognized and studied is that of the working caregiver.
A working caregiver is defined as an employee who has the responsibility of assisting their parents or other loved ones with financial, health, and personal matters. These tasks may take just a few hours a week or a few hours a day. Often, some of these hours are during the workday.
The employee might need time off to take parents to medical appointments, use the Family Medical Leave Act for leave to deal with a crisis, or simply take frequent phone calls from a confused elderly family member.
According to the National Caregivers Library, at any given time, more than 20 percent of the work force is dealing with a caregiving situation. Of those workers, 53 percent report that their job performance is negatively affected. In addition, the NCL reports that 33 percent of caregivers decrease the number of hours they work, 29 percent quit their jobs or retire early, and 22 percent take a leave of absence.
The annual financial impact on U.S. businesses, as reported by MetLife in its 2006 study, is between $17.1 billion and $33.6 billion in lost productivity. These costs are due in part to absenteeism, workday interruptions, reducing hours from full time to part time, and recruitment and training of replacement employees. On top of that, the impact of caregiving on the health of the workers results in added health care costs to employers of $13.4 billion annually, MetLife research says.
In an economic environment that demands businesses work efficiently and use resources wisely if they are to survive, it's critical to find ways to help working caregivers deal with their dual responsibilities to their jobs and families.
Suggestions for human-resource and employee-assistance professionals include educating supervisors on the issue so they can provide support to working caregivers; providing information, referral, and educational programs for those employees; and benefits such as flex-time, telecommuting, and job sharing.
One helpful referral would be to a geriatric care management agency. These professionals, usually social workers or registered nurses, have the training and extensive experience that make it possible for the employee to hand off many of the time-consuming tasks that might be overwhelming them.
A thorough assessment is made of the person and his or her living situation, and a written plan of care is developed, along with suggestions to meet those needs.
With the recommendations in hand, the family has a road map to help them proceed, or the care manager can proceed for them. Having a professional working with them can give family members peace of mind in a difficult time.
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