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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: June 29, 2010
Caregiving Employees Cost Billions More For Healthcare, Annually

Employees in the United States who care for an elderly relative or friend are more likely to report a variety of health problems and absences to their company, according to the "MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Healthcare Costs," sponsored by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Alliance for Caregiving and the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Aging.

These healthcare costs amount to an additional 8 percent, or $13.4 billion, each year.

The increased problems reported by caregiving employees span health problems such as depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

Male caregivers were found to cost an additional 18 percent in healthcare costs to their company.

Female caregivers were less likely to report annual mammograms than non-caregivers, which is one example of employed caregivers who find it more difficult than their non-caregiving counterparts to participate in preventive health screenings, or take care of their own health in general.

The study also found that younger caregivers (18- to 39-years old) are particularly at risk, demonstrating significantly higher rates of cholesterol, hypertension, COPD, depression, kidney disease and heart disease in comparison to non-caregivers of the same age. These conditions result in an 11 percent increase in healthcare costs for employers of these younger caregivers.

It is perhaps not surprising that employees reporting eldercare responsibilities were more likely to have missed days of work, with 10 percent of caregivers missing at least one day of work within two weeks of the study, due to reported health issues. Nine percent of non-caregivers reported the same absences. However, there were much higher numbers of absenteeism among the younger caregivers.

Eldercare may also be closely associated with high-risk behaviors such as smoking or alcohol consumption, leading to an increase in the potential for disability-related absences.

"Caregivers have more unplanned absences. Their performance on the job is compromised by a lack of focus on their work due to distractions, like phone calls and care coordination, that occupy their time," said Gail Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving. "They need solutions so they can be healthier and perform better."

The study suggested that employers should consider integrating their wellness and eldercare programs to meet the needs of caregivers while reducing the associated costs.

Suggestions included connecting caregiving employees with stress-reducing wellness programs designed to positively impact health and provide support, such as:

  • On-site yoga and exercise classes;
  • Relaxation techniques and massage therapy;
  • Decision-support systems offering information about other services;
  • Financial incentives to encourage participation in preventive benefits, like premium reductions for physicals, mammograms, Pap tests, smoking cessation classes, and exercise;
  • Expanded on-site medical screenings; and
  • Free legal and financial advice, especially pertaining to Medicare, Medicaid and insurance.

"While this news may be distressing, our research points out that coordination of eldercare services and wellness initiatives may open new avenues of innovation to benefit both employees and employers," said Sandra Timmerman, EdD, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. "Employers can provide support to their employees and, at the same time, reduce their healthcare costs by anticipating and responding to the challenges of eldercare."

The MetLife report was gathered from an analysis of 17,000 employees of a major multinational U.S. corporation, across 20 states. These participating employees – proportionately blue- and white-collar workers – completed the company’s online health risk appraisal questionnaire, a voluntary and anonymous document. Twelve percent were caregivers for an older person.

Proportional Increase in Medical Care Costs and Caregiver Status


Non-Caregivers

Caregivers

Condition

Cost

Prevalence

Weighted Cost

Prevalence

Weighted Cost

Depression

$725

6.8%

$4,930

8.8%

$6,380

Depression + Cardiovascular Conditions and/or Diabetes

$1,082

1.8%

$1,948

3.8%

$4,112

Hypertension

$910

11.2%

$10,192

15.2%

$13,832

Hypertension + Coronary Artery Disease

$7,914

1.9%

$15,037

3.8%

$30,073

Diabetes

$3,187

3.9%

$12,429

4.7%

$14,979

Other Conditions

$1,269

74.5%

$94,541

63.7%

$80,835

Total



$139,076


$150,211

Proportional Cost Increase





8%


Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute

Addresses: MetLife Mature Market Institute, 57 Greens Farms Road, Westport, CT 06880; www.maturemarketinstitute.com. National Alliance for Caregiving, 4720 Montgomery Lane, 5th Floor, Bethesda, MD 20814; www.caregiving.org. University of Pittsburgh, Institute of Aging, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; (412) 624-4141, www.aging.pitt.edu.


  This article was taken from:
Employee Assistance Program Management Letter

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