A record 57 million Americans — or nearly one in five people in the U.S. — live in multigenerational households, according to the Pew Research Center. Some of this growth is due to adult children moving back home, but more and more elders are moving in with their children.
In 2012, 22.7 percent of adults ages 85 and older lived in a multi-generational household, reports Pew. As people live longer, experts expect this trend to continue.
Why should employers care? Caregiving — and the stresses it creates — affects work productivity. Among those ages 45 to 54, 68 percent reported taking time off from work or leaving early in the prior six months because of caregiving duties. Half of these workers missed eight to 16 hours of work in the last six months due to their caregiving responsibilities. In addition, more than three-quarters of Baby Boomers reported taking up to 16 hours of paid vacation time to care for another person. This should concern employers, says Barbara Campbell, regional vice president in The Hartford’s Group Benefits Division, because “…while many Baby Boomers are under pressure on all sides, they are using their paid time-off as an extension of their hectic lives rather than a vacation.”
Further, caregiving (and the stresses it creates) can also cause health problems. Employees who care for an older relative are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. As a result, the MetLife study, Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs estimated that employees with eldercare responsibilities cost employers an average of 8 percent more per year in healthcare costs than employees without eldercare responsibilities. This equals an estimated $13.4 billion annually in additional costs for all U.S. employers.
According to the MetLife study, “Employed caregivers seem to be able to provide care to someone for 14 hours or less per week (considered a low level of caregiving) with little impact on their ability to stay on the job. However, providing 20 hours or more per week often results in major work adjustments, such as cutting back on hours or stopping work altogether, and the decline in annual income that goes with that work adjustment.”
Employers can take the following action steps to minimize the effects on health and productivity of employees with more than low-level caretaking responsibilities:
1. If you don’t already, consider offering flexible hours or telecommuting to employees whose work duties make this feasible.
2. If your company offers an employee assistance program (EAP), publicize it to employees. Some employees might think the EAP is only for those in crisis, not for those dealing with daily stress.
3. Offer information to caregivers on the resources they can turn to for help. Your EAP or a local agency might offer this type of service; consider having a seminar for caregivers.
4. Make sure employees know their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA rights apply to those who need time off to care for elderly dependents, not just children.
5. Consider offering a dependent care flexible spending account (FSA). Although traditionally used for childcare, funds from an FSA can be used to care for adult dependents as well.
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