Trying to minimize the costs of care for parents or loved ones? You might be saving costs but your employer is not. Employees in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, costing employers an estimated average additional health care cost of 8% per year, or $13.4 billion annually, according to the MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs. The report, produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute® with the National Alliance for Caregiving in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Aging, also found that younger caregivers (ages 18 to 39) cost their employers 11% more for health care than non-caregivers, while male caregivers cost an additional 18%. The survey found that:
- Younger caregivers (18 to 39 years old) demonstrated significantly higher rates of cholesterol, hypertension, COPD, depression, kidney disease, and heart disease in comparison to non-caregivers of the same age.
- Employed caregivers find it more difficult than non-caregivers to take care of their own health or participate in preventive health screenings. For example, women caregivers were less likely to report annual mammograms than non-caregivers.
- Employees with eldercare responsibilities were more likely to report missed days of work. Overall, 10% of caregivers missed at least one day of work over the past two weeks because of health issues compared to 9% of non-caregivers. Differences were mostly driven by the much higher absenteeism among younger caregiving employees, age 18 to 39.
- It also found that eldercare may be closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol consumption.
“While this news may be distressing, our research points out that coordination of eldercare services and wellness initiatives may open new avenues of innovation to benefit both employees and employers,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “Employers can provide support to their employees and, at the same time, reduce their health care costs by anticipating and responding to the challenges of eldercare.”
According to Gail Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, “Caregivers have more unplanned absences. Their performance on the job is also compromised by a lack of focus on their work due to distractions, like phone calls and care coordination, that occupy their time. They need solutions so they can be healthier and perform better.”