Elderly Care Benefits Insufficient for Caregivers
The increasing number of baby boomers' "obligation to frail, elderly parents results in absenteeism, workday distractions or stress-related health problems," the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, companies "are responding" but "often use child care benefits as a model when they do not suit the different and unpredictable needs of the elderly," and the "distinctions between child care and elder care have become apparent" as baby boomers and their parents age. Companies most often offer elder care benefits that cost "little or nothing," such as unpaid leave or referral services, the Times reports.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 39% of members in 2003 reported that elder care benefits were "too costly to be feasible." About 1% of SHRM members provided elder care benefits in 2005, and 3% offered emergency backup care. In addition, according to SHRM, 6% of members have written policies about elder care, and 76% help employees on a case-by-case basis.
According to studies conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, elder care cost companies $11.5 billion to $29 billion in 1997, with the cost of replacement of lost workers estimated to be at least $4.9 billion.
In addition, workday interruptions related to elder care cost companies about $3.7 billion annually, and absenteeism costs them about $885 million annually. However, elder care benefits can "mitigate these costs," according to the Times.
For example, some companies offer emergency backup care, which prevents workday interruptions and absenteeism. Chris Gatti, president of the Work Options Group, said, "These benefits fall under the same umbrella" as child care benefits "but are fundamentally different," adding, "Child care programs are relatively straight-forward and easy to administer compared to elder care, which is a maze with lots of sharp corners and dark secluded places" (Gross, New York Times, 3/25).