Family caregivers shoulder the burden of direct and indirect costs associated with caring for an older loved one. Their health suffers, health costs increase, and productivity declines. More than 60 percent of family caregivers work outside the home, and some 61 percent of that group has made sacrifices in their careers, according to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 Report. Indeed, caregiving costs U.S. businesses roughly $34 billion in annual lost productivity in the United States, as estimated by the MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs. Time taken off from work by elder caregivers often goes unrecognized when, in fact, days off for senior care have been reported by Gallup at 65 percent higher than days off for child care (6.6 vs. 4 days/year). Moreover, the inherent stresses of caregiving take a toll on family caregivers, who have a 30 percent higher chance of depression, a 25 percent higher chance of hypertension, and a 50 percent higher chance of daily physical pain, according to the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index.
The National Alliance for Caregiving describes the average family caregiver as a 49-year-old female who is likely balancing work, child care and elder care, all while putting her own health, well-being and career at the bottom of her priority list. A new report from Fidelity Investments and the Stanford Center on Longevity reports that more than three-quarters of women felt more stressed after taking on elder caregiving responsibilities, compared to two-thirds of men. Half slept worse, and more than 40 percent gained weight and stopped exercising. The potential implications for society are huge: According to a recent JAMA Neurology article, “Hard-fought gains toward equality in the workplace for women are at risk.”
Home care services for seniors can help alleviate the physical and emotional stresses of caring for aging loved ones. Employers and policymakers have a role to play in addressing the growing impact of senior caregiving responsibilities on employees, particularly women. Through policies and practices like flexible work arrangements, paid time off for caregiving, and access to elder caregiving resources, employers can support working caregivers and, as a result, gain a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining valuable talent. Employers should be empowered to determine the best ways that they can support their employees who are family caregivers, while ensuring that they are meeting the needs of the larger organization. Policy can help incent employers to extend that support.
Key Legislation to Support Family Caregivers:
- RAISE Family Caregivers Act:
This legislation calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish and maintain a National Family Caregiving Strategy that would identify specific actions that government, communities, health care providers, employers and others can take to recognize and support family caregivers. A Family Caregiving Advisory Council would be convened to advise the Secretary on issues including how to improve programs, reduce financial impact on caregivers, and evaluate the impact on federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Learn more about this legislation.
- CARE Act:
The CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act helps ensure coordinated care transitions from the hospital to home by requiring: (1) the name of the family caregiver to be recorded when a loved one is admitted into a hospital or rehabilitation facility; (2) the hospital or rehabilitation facility to provide an explanation and live instruction of the medical tasks that the family caregiver will perform at home; and (3) the family caregiver to be notified if the loved one is to be discharged to another facility or back home. The CARE Act is now law in 35 states, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more about this legislation.