Why Companies Should Care About Caregivers

One in nine Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s. These numbers grab attention, but they don’t tell the real impact on families, and the daily juggling act of work and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Each day there are millions of people going to work with the fear that something will happen to their loved one while they’re gone. Everyday thoughts can range from, “Will my mom remember to eat today?” to “Will my dad remember to take his medication? to “Will my grandmother get lost while driving?

Alzheimer’s has a significant impact on American companies. Recent studies prove it. A study commissioned by Workplace Options, in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association, showed that nearly 70 percent of those who work or worked while providing care had to modify their schedules. They went in late, left early or took time off during the day.

Alzheimer’s also hits companies on their bottom line. Gallup Business Journal research estimates American businesses lose more than $25 billion annually in productivity from absenteeism among full-time working caregivers. Given the impact that Alzheimer’s has on the workforce, companies are responding. According to 2014 Families and Work Institute’s National Study of Employers:

  • The share of employers providing information about elder-care services to their employees has increased from 31 percent in 2008 to 43 percent in 2014
  • 75 percent of employers say they offer time off for elder care without penalizing workers, yet few offer paid leave.
  • The share of companies allowing workers to pay for some elder care with pre-tax dollars, much like child care, has nearly doubled, to 41%, since 2008.

While this is going in the right direction, there are some companies, such as Fannie Mae, Deloitte and Vanguard, that are going above and beyond to address bigger eldercare issues. These companies have adopted policies that allow for flexibility and/or paid time off.  Here’s how they show that they care:

  • Fannie Mae offers flexibility through a wide range of benefits, such as emergency backup adult care, geriatric assessments, social workers to assist with referrals for adult day-care programs, and help with legal, financial and emotional counseling.
  • Deloitte recently expanded its family leave program to support eldercare. This bold new program recognizes the changing family dynamics and emerging needs of Deloitte’s professionals. All employees are now eligible for up to 16 weeks of fully paid family leave to support a range of life events impacting them and their families. This paid time off can be taken in increments to care for sick spouses, parents, and children.
  • Vanguard offers up to two weeks paid leave for employees. They polled its workforce and heard a clear message that with eldercare, employees need to get to doctors, to make arrangements to interview care, and some time off to figure all of these things out.

While these companies have raised the bar, they are the exception to the rule. According to The Society for Human Resource Management’s 2016 benefits report, only 2 percent of companies subsidize such care.  By shaking up standard policies for eldercare and showing that they care, these companies are helping their employees on a crucial family issue. They’re also leading the way in showing other companies what can be done to address the common eldercare problem in our country.

What companies will follow the path of Deloitte, Fannie Mae, and Vanguard? Time will tell and I can’t wait to find out.



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