Beyond Health Insurance in Virginia: New Employee Benefit Growing to Fill Eldercare Need

America is graying. 13% percent of the American population is age 65 or over and an astounding 19% of Americans over the age of 18 are caring for someone over age 50 at home, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.

The impact of working caregivers on employers is becoming more dramatic every year. The MetLife Mature Market Institute & National Alliance for Care Giving survey from 2006 estimated the cost to employers of eldercare as $33.6 billion or $2110 per full-time employed caregiver. The costs are specifically from absenteeism, replacing of employees, workday interruptions, unpaid leave, and care crisis work related absenteeism.

Presenteeism is relatively new term used to describe employees who are at work, but are not productive due to a variety of external forces. Studies by the National Alliance for Caregiving also found that caring for a loved one caused poor health for the caregiver. Sleep deprivation, depression, and higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure have all been observed in caregivers stressed by the demands of working full time and caring for a loved one.

A few employers are beginning to offer eldercare as a benefit, realizing that baby boomers need help with caring for their parents and that productivity can be vastly improved by keeping employees focused. Emerging products offer benefits ranging from in-home services for small fixed co-pays, to legal advice and services. The Metlife report notes that 20% of employers with 500 or more employees offer eldercare referral services, and15% eldercare leave. Only 2% offered subsidized eldercare and 1% paid for eldercare or provided on-site eldercare services.

A “Silver Tsunami” of retiring baby-boomers is coming, and the crushing burden of caring for elderly parents is just beginning to emerge. The numbers prove there is much to be done in the area of assisting employees with these responsibilities so they can focus on being productive. Benefits “products” designed to meet this need will undoubtedly be developed over the next decade. Employers who address this need will be on the road to limiting the financial impact of an Aging America on their business.

Gregg Kennerly is a Principal at Advanced Benefit Strategies of Virginia, LLC. He can be reached at [email protected]

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