Companies Renew Efforts to Help Employees With Elder Care
After a "decade of trying, but largely failing," to help employees who care for elderly relatives, some companies have made "another push" with new, "ambitious" benefits programs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ford Motor Co., for example, began in January offering the firm's 150,000 employees across North America free house calls by geriatric care managers to determine the health of elderly family members and develop plans for their care. AT&T Corp. plans to "rol[l] out" four "one-stop shops" to help coordinate care and services for employees' elderly relatives, while Fannie Mae recently hired a full-time elder care case manager to help employees at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters. The Journal reports that the moves mark the "latest response" to a national trend as more than 14 million U.S. employees care for elderly family members. According to a 1997 study for MetLife Inc., employees who care for elderly relatives cost employers as much as $29 billion a year in lost productivity because of time spent away from work. The National Council on the Aging also found that 25% of employees caring for elderly family members who lived an hour or more from the office "missed at least one day of work each month," and 15% "took unpaid leave." In addition, a second MetLife study found that caring for elderly relatives usually requires at least eight hours a week over eight years, and the problem will likely "mushroom" with the increasing number of middle-aged workers and longer-living parents. "We're in the business of making cars, and if an employee is stressed out about his sick mother, that car isn't going to be made as well," Greg Mack, Ford's health program manager, said (Greene, Wall Street Journal, 3/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.