I recently gave a keynote speech to a room comprised of 1,000 or so “C-level” female executives — the topic was how to balance caregiving and a career.
As take-charge women they were there to learn tools to help them cope with the arduous tasks associated with caregiving for an aging loved one while simultaneously keeping up with the intense demands of their careers. I decided to kickoff my presentation by asking the audience how many of them had employee benefit packages that included eldercare options.
To my absolute amazement less than 100 people raised their hand! A myriad of questions began racing through my mind... Do they even know what I’m talking about when I say eldercare benefits? If so, did they not inquire as to whether this benefit was a part of their “package” when they were hired? Are eldercare benefits actually not currently being offered as an employment benefit these days? I was astonished…
As the number of employees juggling the care of an older loved one escalates, these working caregivers are increasingly torn between the pressing needs of their families and unyielding obligations to their employers. Clearly, most employers fail to recognize the overwhelming consequences of their employees unresolved eldercare issues — the outcome of this oversight will most certainly create a sobering financial hit to these organizations’ bottom line.
A recent survey conducted by MetLife, which estimates the aggregate cost of caregiving in lost productivity to United States businesses at approximately $34 billion per year, irrefutably elucidates this assumption! Yet to my incredulity, only about one in four companies currently offer elder care benefits.
Even if corporate eldercare benefits do exist on paper, most employees say their supervisor’s negative attitude toward eldercare heavily influences their limited use of these perks. Apparently many managers are perceived to be sending mixed signals if employees try to use these benefits. This seems especially prevalent in the case of an older employee and a younger manager, in which the manager may not have had any previous experience caregiving for an aging loved one.
With that being said, it’s estimated that supervisors spend 55.7 million hours of company time per year dealing with issues specifically related to employed caregivers, for a total cost to businesses of over $800 million annually.
This impending “employee caregiving crisis” is not surprising however, when you consider that an estimated 65 million people — 29 percent of the United States population — currently provide informal care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year. It’s alarming to note that most caregivers are cited as tending to their parents, or other mature relatives, an average of 20 hours per week — 13 percent of family caregivers report that they actually provide an astounding 40 hours (or more) of care a week.
As of January 1st 2011, each day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 years of age — the average 65-year-old today can expect to live another 20.4 years. Statistics show that 85 percent of persons 65 years of age, and over, will require some form of caregiving assistance within their lifetime. These figures are undoubtedly expected to rise significantly as our population continues to “age up” appreciably over the next decade.
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