In 2006, the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving coauthored a study entitled The MetLife Caregiving Cost Study: Productivity Losses to U.S. Business (PDF), which estimates that the average cost to an employer per ’employee caregiver’ is $2,110 per year. The total estimated cost to employers for all full-time, employed caregivers is $33.6 billion. The study puts the number of full-time employed caregivers at close to 16 million, and growing.
The costs in terms of lost productivity are associated with:

  • Absenteeism and partial absenteeism (Coming in late or leaving early)
  • Workday interruptions
  • Crisis in care
  • Supervisory time
  • Unpaid leave
  • Reduction in hours from full-time to part-time

The study defines a caregiver as someone caring for a person over the age of 18. Typically, the person being cared for is over 50. The chances are very high that you have caregivers in your organization right now, whether you know it or not.
The term caregiving is a relatively recent one – it’s not even in my spell checker – but the concept is certainly not new. Since the beginning of time, family members have been taking care of their sick or elderly relatives. What is new is the number of baby boomers in the workforce who have elderly parents, spouses, or children with significant health issues.
I speak from personal experience since I have dealt with elderly parents as well as with a child with a significant health issue health while working full-time. I know the amount of time and energy these problems can absorb. Even when you are at your desk, it’s often difficult to focus on your job when people that you love are sick. At the time when these family health issues were on the table for me, I was unaware that my employer even had an EAP or that an EAP might be able to help me with support and services. At the time, I was under the misperception that EAPs are only for substance abuse or mental health issues. Many of your employees may be missing valuable support if they are also under this misperception.
Your EAP can help your employees with these caregiving issues. We have invested significant resources in training our counselors and staff to deal with the myriad issues that are part and parcel of caregiving. In fact, we added a specific Caregiver Resource benefit in response to the many member calls we noted around caregiving issues, from resource referrals to help dealing with all the associated emotions.
A benefit is only as beneficial as its utilization. Make sure any caregivers in your organization are aware of your EAP and publicize specifics about the type of support and services they can obtain from your EAP. Help and support services can be invaluable to your caregiving employees and can also help minimize the effects on your organization’s productivity.

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