Caregiving and Work

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2004

It's no secret that vast numbers of employees are juggling multiple responsibilities, which frequently means caring for an aging loved one. Nationally, nearly a quarter of all workers provides some sort of eldercare and those numbers are expected to grow as the baby boomers age. While caregiving has traditionally been a role assumed by women, the number of caregiving men is now nearly four in 10. And male caregivers are more likely to be employed full- or part-time (66 percent vs. 55 percent for women).

The impact is astounding. Lost productivity costs U.S. businesses between $11.4 and $29 billion per year, according to The MetLife Study of Employer Costs for Working Caregivers, published in 1997. Employee caregiving costs employers in terms of replacement for those who quit, absenteeism and partial absenteeism, workday interruptions, and costs associated with supervising employed caregivers. According to a 1999 study from the National Center on Women and Aging, 67 percent of employees providing eldercare took time off during the work day for caregiving; 64 percent used sick days or vacation time; 22 percent took a leave of absence; 20 percent reduced their career from full-time to part-time; and 16 percent quit their jobs entirely.

How can employers mitigate the impact and help their employees who are caregiving? According to a survey by Hewitt Associates, almost half of all large employers (1,000-plus employees) have some sort of eldercare program such as flextime, work at home options, job sharing, dependent care accounts and employer-paid services of a care manager to address the needs of their caregiving employees.

But you don't have to be a Fortune 500 company to help your employees. Eldercare assistance programs can be as simple as providing information and referral for caregiving employees, with little or no cost to employers. Doing so sends a message to employees that you recognize their caregiving needs.

Where to Find Help

Agency on Aging Click on "Because We Care: A Guide for People Who Care" for helpful information for family caregivers.

AARP Search "Caregiving" for a wide range of information on caregiving issues.

Medicare Click publications and check "Medicare& You" for basic information. Or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

National Alliance on Caregiving Click reports and products, and see "Caring Today, Planning for Tomorrow" for advice on caring for an older relative or friend.

In Southwest Florida

Florida Association of Area Agencies on Aging/Florida Department of Elder Affairs

For specific information on what's available in Hardee, Hillsboro, Highland, Manatee and Polk counties, see the link for West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging, Inc., (813) 740-3888). For Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota counties, see the link for Senior Solutions of Southwest Florida (239) 332-4233.

See DRM directory for a complete listing of support services for people with disabilities.

Hospice of Southwest Florida Information and resources for patients and families dealing with life-limiting illnesses.

Other organizations, such as local hospitals, senior centers, faith-based organizations (Catholic Charities, United Jewish Appeal, etc.), disease-specific organizations (e.g., Alzheimer's Association), or local universities or community colleges are also excellent resources. 

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