The impact of elder care on the employer and the workforce

If your sales manager and comptroller came into your office to tell you that sales will be down for 4th quarter and it will impact revenue by 20%, you would want to know why and what was being planned to improve the situation. What you may not realize is that family caregiving issues by several employees is having an impact on your business.

In 2012 the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Survey reported that caregiving costs impact on the US economy was $25 billion in lost productivity. So, what can you do about it? First let’s understand who the caregivers are and what is distracting them.

Employees starting families tend to have a support system. They often have their own parents to watch plus a newborn. Family leave, which was just passed in New Jersey, helps with caring for a newborn.  Plus, it is an exciting time and everyone at work knows when someone is pregnant so the absence is to be expected.

Caring for an adult is not exciting and family caregivers tend to keep it to themselves until there is a crisis event that demands more. A company loses productivity because employees are distracted. They are answering texts, phone calls and searching for help online. They are running to doctor appointments – and even comforting a loved one who is sick or suffering with early onset dementia.

The age of caregivers and those needing care is also starting to change. When I started my home care agency business, a majority or our clients were in their 80s and the family caregivers in their 50s and 60s. In the ten years we have been in business we have seen a shift. More of our clients are in their 90s and the family caregivers are in their late 60s and 70s. Plus we are now serving more younger clients in their early 60s. The caregivers are Millennials, late 20s and 30s. They are caring for parents with early onset Alzheimer’s, often single parents who need help with instrumental activities of daily living such as shopping for groceries and joining their parents on doctor visits.

The complexity of care is also changing. People are not spending much time is hospitals after a health event and are released home with more complicated medical tasks and medication needs. This burden is falling on all caregivers. AARP’s Public Policy Institute reported that Millennial caregivers are burdened with more of these issues than previous generations of caregivers.

Ten years ago, the long-term care insurance company Genworth surveyed 800 people and found that the average age of caregivers was 53 years old. Two years ago, they updated the survey. The average age of a caregiver dropped to 47. They also found that people needing care dropped. More than half surveyed were over 75. Almost 10 years later, the age dropped to 66.

Not only are your employees having to care for their parents, they are starting families, bringing up teenagers, trying to succeed at work, saving for college educations for their kids and hopefully saving for their own retirement.

For solo business owners when you’re the one growing your business – serving your customers and trying to take care of your own life – family caregiving responsibilities can be crushing.

There are several issues. Here are a few:

  • Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Parents divorced and the Mom or Dad is increasingly dependent on their adult kids.
  • Parents who are boomers have not saved enough for retirement and need financial help.
  • Catastrophic illness of a widowed parent who is in their 60s and early 70s.

Solutions and what can employers do

It’s complicated. Employers, regardless of the size company, need to do their best to create an open environment for dialogue so employees can easily discuss their challenges. New Jersey just passed the Family Leave act, which is a great benefit when someone needs a block of time off. However sometimes an employee may need to come in late, leave early or need to work from home to help a loved one. A flexible work schedule that is measured for getting your job done not face time in the office will help take the pressure off stressed caregivers.

Employees also need to know where to turn for help when the caregiving responsibilities are simply too much for them. There are several home care agencies in New Jersey that can help. Comfort Keepers, Applause Home Care, Loving Care Agency and Senior Helpers provide services in Northern New Jersey that your employees can depend on to help care for a loved one.

Access to local elder care attorneys, long term care insurance specialists and financial advisors to help your employees navigate their loved one’s challenges and set up their own lives early on will be a great service that every employer should try to provide for their workforce.

Eydie Shapiro is an owner and the Director of Sales for Comfort Keepers At Home Care of Secaucus. The company is owned and operated by the three women of Women On a Mission, LLC. We know from personal experience the challenges families face in caring for loved ones as they get older and need help with the activities of daily living and we partner with families to address their concerns and help their loved ones maintain independence.


Meadowlands Magazine, the official publication of the Meadowlands Chamber and its affiliate organizations, has proudly served the business community of the Meadowlands region sine 1976. We are among largest business magazine in New Jersey (second by circulation) and offer prime visibility opportunities for businesses to connect with potential customers.