Is eldercare impacting your company’s bottom line? Organizations are accustomed to addressing issues related to childcare through providing flextime, financial support and onsite programs. While many companies have been proactive in providing similar accommodations and benefits, the exponentially aging population in the United States may be impacting your financial statements in both expected and unexpected ways.

The Impact
Currently, over 44 million individuals in the United States are caring for aging family members. Of these, approximately half are employed outside of the home. The compounding problem is that millions of these are full-time employees who are also caring for children under the age of 18. This group is referred to as the Sandwich Generation. More importantly, it is imperative we identify and address the costs to our companies.

The cost of caring for family members is over $34 billion annually.

These costs are calculated primarily as a result of direct absenteeism.

The obvious costs are those associated with time lost due to the physical needs of the elders in our care. These needs may require missing up to as much as 20 hours a month of work time. These employees may have the elders in their families either residing in their home or nearby. In either case, the time spent caring for these loved ones is significant. The time may be spent in direct care or in making appointments, consulting with medical professionals, or transporting our loved ones to appointments.

Lost productivity is one of the greatest costs to our organizations due to caring for these loved ones in our families.

The impact to both quality and quantity of family time can be significant when caring for aging family members. This is especially true for those employees who are married as well as may still be caring for children living in the home. The employees who find themselves in these situations may experience a day-to-day desire to serve those in need while also being responsible in caring for their households.

Presenteeism is also a variable calculated into the cost of caring for family members. The concept of being at work physically but being mentally and/or emotionally distracted has been shown to have a significant cost to organizations’ financial well-being. When loved ones are experiencing medical concerns, changes in living conditions and locations, or simply need quality time, the stress can accumulate for the employee. In other words, presenteeism is also a cost to address in our companies as a result of the distractions resulting from eldercare.

Research indicates the increased stress as well as additional mitigating factors such as decreased sleep, a lack of time for hobbies and effective self-care has led to substantially higher healthcare costs for the caregivers themselves. Caregivers experience a greater prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and these increased costs are directly impacting to your companies’ financial statements.

A Strategic Response
While there are many additional issues to address related to costs, a critical matter to proactively focus on is turnover. The cost of replacing an experienced employee can exceed 50% of the individual’s annual salary. But according to AARP reports, simply investing in eldercare may save the company up to $14 for every $1 spent. Therefore, developing a strategic eldercare program within our companies may be the most beneficial step to take.

The program should include flexible scheduling, resources made available to assist employees in making difficult and complex decisions, as well as medical, legal, financial and emotional support. Company leaders who have developed a culture of care within their organizations and included eldercare as part of their strategic goals are experiencing an increase in retention as well as productivity among their employees. As we head further into the 2017 year, what can and should you do to care for your employees who are in the blessed position of caring for their loved ones?

By Colleen McLaughlin, SPHR