Today, seven million Americans are working full-time and providing long-term care for someone.
The percentage of adult children providing personal care or financial assistance to a parent has tripled over the past 15 years. A quarter of all adult children provide care to a parent. Of these, approximately 57 percent provide 16 or more hours of care a week, with 31 percent providing over 30 hours a week.
To manage the demands of family, work, and caregiving, six out of 10 caregivers will make a workplace accommodation –arriving late or leaving early, taking a leave of absence, or dropping back to part-time work. One study estimates that approximately 170,000 caregivers—60 percent of whom are women—leave the workplace every year.
Estimates of the costs to employers range between $17.1 and $33.6 billion annually—the result of increased absenteeism, shifts to part-time work, workday interruptions, and the cost to hire and train replacements for those who leave the workforce. In addition, a recent study found that working caregivers use eight percent more health care services due to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and physical strain—adding an additional $13 billion annually to the tab for employers.
Discussions in Washington about new or expanded federal programs to help deal with long-term care costs have been largely unproductive. The Obama Administration decided not to move forward with the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act in October (the part of the healthcare reform law that deals with long-term care). Howard Gleckman, a former BusinessWeekreporter and a resident fellow at the Urban Institute (author of the book Caring for Our Parents), says, “We are in an era of real funding constraint by the government that will get worse long before it ever gets better [for long-term care].”
The good news is that companies are in a unique position to help their people by sponsoring group programs that are paid for by employees at little or no cost to the company, and that offer employees many benefits—including education, premium discounts, and underwriting concessions. These sponsored plans give employees and their family members the opportunity to purchase coverage that gives them peace of mind and allows them to remain more focused at work.