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from Spencer’s Benefits Reports: Workers in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative are more likely to report health problems such as depression, diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, boosting employers’ health care costs by an estimated average 8%, or $13.4 billion per year, 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 (those ages 18 to 39) cost their employers 11% more for health care than noncaregivers in the same age group, while male caregivers cost an additional 18%. The study also found that eldercare provision might be closely associated with high-risk behaviors such as smoking and alcohol consumption and that these medical conditions also can lead to disability-related absences.
The MetLife report was based on an analysis of 17,000 employees of a major multinational U.S. corporation based in the northeast who completed health risk assessment questionnaires. Twelve percent were caregivers for an older person.
“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, 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 chief executive officer 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.”
The study also led to the following discoveries:
To meet the health care needs of caregivers while reducing the associated costs, employers should consider integrating their wellness and eldercare programs, the survey sponsors recommended. In addition to practices such as flexible hours, paid time off, and telecommuting, the report contains suggestions for employers to connect their employees who are caregivers with wellness programs that will help reduce their stress, positively affect their health, and provide needed support. These include stress-reduction seminars such as worksite yoga and exercise classes; relaxation techniques and massage therapy; decision-support systems providing information about available services; financial incentives to encourage participation in preventive benefits offered by employers (such as premium reductions for those who obtain annual physicals, mammograms, Pap tests, smoking cessation classes, and exercise), expanded work-site medical screenings; and free legal and financial advice, especially pertaining to Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance.
For more information, visit http://www.maturemarketinstitute.com.
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