Americans are living longer. This, combined with the fact that many couples are waiting until later in life to have children, has created a situation that is quickly developing into a semi-crisis for those responsible for elder care.
Even as children of baby boomers are caring for their own kids and grandkids, they are increasingly responsible for the care of their own aging parents. The term “sandwich generation” has been coined for the generation of people in this situation. For the first time, American workers are actually taking off more time from work to care for their parents than to care for their kids.
Statistics show that the number of Americans age 65 or older has increased tenfold in the past century. This means that many families who are managing their own careers and families are now also responsible for the care of elderly parents. With 42 percent of U.S. workers providing care for an aging relative or friend in the past five years, and 49 percent expecting to provide elder care in the next five years, the long-term effects of elder caregiving can be challenging.
The older population in the United States is expected to double by 2030, reaching 70 million individuals. As the children of baby boomers look to offer elder care to their parents, the difficulties of managing elder care and work responsibilities may lead to decreased productivity in a work setting, limited career development, financial problems, and even mental acuity issues.
To help caregivers manage this work-life balance, many employers are now incorporating a variety of programs, such as Dependent Care Assistance Programs (DCAP), that are designed to help employers and employees manage elder care and work responsibilities. DCAPs are reimbursement packages that allow employees to have a portion of their pay set aside to help with the financial burden of caring for dependent and elder adults.
Many people are familiar with DCAPs as a way to help employees pay for the care of a qualifying dependent child under the age of 12, but employers are now also using these plans for employees who are taking care of elder members of their families. The United States Office of Personnel Management has released guideline information related to elder and adult dependent care for employees of the federal government. This includes a handbook designed to help find ways to create a flexible workplace, along with work-life programs for families that are engaged in elder care for loved ones.
As medical technology has advanced, a larger number of elder Americans and their families are looking for home health care solutions to help extend their quality of life in their homes. A study by the AARP found that 90 percent of senior Americans are interested in “aging in place,” also known as home health care. Because of this, home health care is now one of the fastest-growing industries in the health care market. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the home health care industry is projected to see a 5 percent compound annual growth rate from 2014 to 2024—the highest among all industries. This amounts to about 760,000 new jobs, which means that more and more business opportunities are becoming available.
The costs related to home health care are an ongoing source of concern for employers, employees and their families. As more employers look to create more DCAPs for the benefits of their employees, spending limits imposed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can result in significant financial burdens. Currently, five states have enacted limits on program costs for home health care, while 25 states and the District of Columbia have limited service hours for these types of programs.
National averages show that family caregivers spend 20 hours a week caring for their loved ones, while 13 percent of family caregivers spend more than 40 hours per week on home health care. Studies also show that one in five retirees left the workplace earlier than planned to take care of loved one that needed home health care, and 68 percent of home health caregivers had to make accommodations to their work schedules to assist with home health care needs of an elderly family member. For businesses, this amount of time can translate into loss of productivity for the employees.
The ideal solution is a system where employers and employees work together to find a home health care provider that can meet the needs of employees who are struggling to manage all of their responsibilities, both at work and with their aging family members. Besides DCAPs, flexible spending accounts (FSA) can also be used to help manage time and monetary expenses for elder care.
Businesses want to maintain worker productivity and help meet their employees’ needs. It’s important to open distinct lines of communication on benefits programs and how they can be used to help ease employees’ burdens. This can have a profound impact on not just employee productivity, but also on their financial well-being and morale. In addition, having plans in place to help caregivers can also help reduce medical expenditures for everyone involved in the home health care spectrum by reducing hospital readmissions and the medical costs associated with aging.
Companies like FirstLight Home Care are committed to helping with issues that are faced by our elder population, as well as problems that home health caregivers face each day. As caregivers ourselves, our staff has experienced many of these same issues and we are able to offer assistance programs for all types of home health care. With services that include companion care, personal care and dementia care, our caregivers can work with families and their loved ones in varying states of need to create customized home health care plans that will offer peace of mind to not only those requiring care, but also to their family members. For employers, employees and caregivers, finding ways to help alleviate concern and allow businesses and employees to work together to offer solutions as our population continues to age is critical for the growth of all involved. For those who are passionate about building a business that makes a difference in lives and communities, the home health care industry is a natural fit.
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Written by: Bill McPherson.