While often purchased through independent means, long term care (LTC) insurance as an employee benefit is being offered more often by employers. Under this LTC policy, services to meet LTC needs such as adult day care, home health, skilled nursing care, and custodial care are available to employees, their spouses, and sometimes parents or parents-in-law.
According to AARP, addressing caregiver support issues in the workplace is smart business. AARP noted that companies are finding senior care help to be advantageous because both the employer and employee benefits when workers have options that make caregiving more manageable. According to AARP, about 33 percent of large companies offer basic senior care benefits, as do 25 percent of all businesses. Most are in the form of resource materials and referral services, unpaid leave, dependent care flexible spending accounts, counseling, or back-up senior care. More progressive companies offer subsidized in-home emergency care or adult day care, on-staff geriatric care specialists, and allowing older relatives on health insurance plans.
Many employers are sympathetic to the demands of those providing senior care for their loved ones. Via the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible workers may access up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family caregiving without the loss of job security or benefits. But many unions and employers have gone beyond that mandate and negotiated the following programs to help employees address their senior care needs:
- resource and referral services that match providers with appropriate senior care resources and services;
- pretax programs that establish a tax-free flexible spending account for senior care expenses (as well as child/dependent care expenses);
- elder care funds that provide direct cash payments or reimbursement for senior care expenses;
- support services that offer information and support services for retired employees and their families;
- long term care insurance that helps employees pay for long term care for themselves and their dependents including spouse or parent; and
- sick time for family members and flex time options which both allow workers to use their accumulated sick leave to care for sick dependents.
Check with your company to determine if you have workplace benefits for senior care help.
Many families opt to try to save money by becoming their senior’s caregiver themselves, as opposed to hiring help to provide care to their loved one, or using a nursing home. Costs to companies with employees acting as senior caregivers can be high: according to AARP, one study showed that 75 percent of employees caring for adults experience negative health concerns of their own, including stress, depression, panic attacks, headaches, loss of energy and sleep, weight loss, and physical pain. AARP cited a study by the MetLife Market Mature Institute and National Alliance of Caregiving that said U.S. companies paid between $17.1 billion and $33.6 billion annually on lost productivity, equaling $2,110 for every full-time worker who cares for an adult. Other AARP figures showed a cost to business of $6.6 billion to replace employees (9 percent left work or took early retirement); nearly $7 billion in workday interruptions (i.e., coming in late, leaving early, taking time off during the day or spending work time on senior care matters); and, $4.3 billion in absenteeism.