THE DECADE OF ELDERCARE

This is the decade of eldercare. The Conference Board, a global not-for-profit organization specializing in management marketing, predicts that within the next few years, more than 37 percent of U.S. workers will be more concerned with caring for a parent than a child.

Eldercare has a tremendous impact on our workforce and on our family structure. Medical practices may see this more than other employers as family members with health care experience are often the ones expected to care for family members. The effects of long term care and eldercare threaten productivity in the United States. Some family members provide care for loved ones 40 or more hours a week in addition to their regular job responsibilities. Obviously this will have an impact on that worker. They are stressed, resulting in lower productivity and greater absenteeism. Their stress causes them to have health problems of their own leading to increased health claims that can then lead to increased health insurance premiums for the medical practice or other employer. They may take a leave of absence or quit working altogether, resulting in the need to hire and train replacements. These are some of the costs of eldercare that face employers.

Obviously there are also significant costs for the employees who are in a caregiving role.
Taking a leave of absence to care for someone who is terminally ill with a less than six-month life expectancy is a challenge financially, physically, emotionally, and socially. Imagine the challenges of caring for someone with a chronic illness or with dementia where care may be needed for 10-15 years. Multiple sclerosis, aneurysms, automobile and sporting accidents can affect people at young ages and result in the need for care for even longer periods of time.

There are many costs to caregiving. Clearly there is the economic impact if an employee leaves their job. Not only is there lost income, there are lost social security earnings, lost retirement contributions, lost employee benefits that may include health insurance.

There are additional costs with caregiving—even the day to day expenses of picking up a few groceries or picking up a prescription or having a handyman install grab bars in the bathroom can quickly add up. There is the cost of having someone come in to assist with care when it is no longer possible for the family to handle it all.

There is the cost in terms of the caregiver’s ability to spend time with their own spouse and children. There is the emotional toll of becoming a caregiver to a person who has always been perceived as strong and healthy. There is the physical cost of the day-to-day caregiving responsibilities for someone who perhaps needs constant care and attention.

Many employers are now offering long-term care insurance to their employees and to the employees’ families. This is one part of a solution. It gives employees the resources to hire additional caregivers that may enable them to continue with their job. It enables them to make sure that funds are available to pay for high-quality care for their loved one and it provides peace of mind while they are at work. It protects that employee’s savings from being depleted paying for caregivers and allows the savings to be used for their intended purpose such as college tuition for the children or to fund retirement.

Increasing numbers of employers are seeking ways to support the employee/caregiver through employee assistance programs, educational programs, and innovative employee benefits such as long term care insurance. The medical practice or other employer may have significant tax incentives for providing this benefit. Additionally, it is a benefit that can be offered on an employer-paid or voluntary basis. It also can be offered only to selected classes of employers—it need not be offered to all employees.

There are almost daily reports on the impact of an aging population in our country. Supporting caregivers in the workplace is a very real and constant challenge in this the decade of eldercare.

The following contribution is from Betty Doll, MBA, CLTC, owner of Doll & Associates Long Term Care Insurance Services. Betty has focused exclusively on Long Term Care Insurance since 1997. She holds the Certified in Long Term Care (CLTC) designation.

Betty has a Master of Business Administration degree from Jacksonville University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Western Michigan University. Being nationally recognized as an expert on long term care insurance, she is a frequent speaker for local clubs and organizations and also for regional and national conferences. She has recently been quoted in Kiplingers and in the Wall Street Journal.

Living in beautiful Asheville, NC, Betty is active in her community. She is an involved member of the Buncombe County Council on Aging, the Leadership Asheville Forum, and the North Carolina Stage Company. She is active in the National Association of Health Underwriters, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the Financial Planning Association, and serves as an officer for the Land of Sky Estate Planning Council. She is an active member of the Asheville Downtown Rotary Club.