NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Companies See Elder Care As Business Problem

March 29, 2001

For the past decade, companies have tried with little success to assist employees caring for elderly parents or close relatives. Their efforts were unsuccessful because few people plan ahead for elder care and when a crisis hits, they don't think of the workplace as a resource.

But employees who must juggle work with care do impose costs on companies -- mainly in time lost from the job. So companies are once again testing programs to assist such employees, as well as protect the companies' own bottom lines.

  • For example, Ford Motor Co. has begun offering its North American employees free house calls by geriatric-care managers to assess the health of elderly relatives and develop plans for their care.
  • More than 14 million U.S. workers are estimated to be caring for older family members and their efforts -- which often take them away from the office -- cost employers as much as $29 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a 1997 study by MetLife Inc.
  • That same year, the National Council on the Aging found that 25 percent of workers taking care of a relative who lived an hour or more away missed at least one day of work each month -- and 15 percent took unpaid leave.
  • Caring for an elderly relative typically takes at least eight hours a week and spans eight years.

It is a problem that is expected to mushroom as the number of middle-aged workers grows and their parents live longer.

Source: Kelly Greene, "Firms Try Again to Help Workers With Elder Care," Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2001.

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