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Employees and elder care.

Elder care has been called the "silent productivity killer," as more and more people fall into the "sandwich generation," having to care for both children and aging relatives. With the growing number of elderly people being cared for by family members, employee expectations regarding elder care benefits are rising, and as a result, most organizations expect costs for those benefits to increase in the next five years, according to human resources professionals.

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An AARP/National Alliance for Caregiving study from as early as 1997 estimated that one in four American households struggled to provide care for elderly people. Another study, from Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., predicted that losses in productivity due to elder care issues range from $11 billion to $29 billion a year. Even so, only 25% of organizations offer elder care benefits, reported the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) [www.shrm.org].

According to SHRM, human resources professionals estimate that nearly 15% of employees in their organizations deal with elder care issues, and convey the following experiences:

* employees who missed a full day from work: 59%

* employees who encountered workday interruptions: 44%

* employees who experienced stress-related health problems: 29%

* companies experiencing turnover or attrition due to elder care issues: 16%

The impact elder care has on employees is even more profound depending on the size of the company:

* Large organizations (500 + employees) are much more likely to report workday interruptions, strained employee/manager relationships, and missed appointments and meetings than medium-sized (100-499 employees) and small companies (1-99 employees).

* 23% of respondents from large organizations and 21% from medium-sized organizations reported turnover due to employees dealing with elder care issues. Only 4% of small organizations reported the same.

* While SHRM research found that a quarter of organizations offer some kind of elder care benefits, and nearly one-third agreed that employers have an obligation to provide assistance for employees challenged by elder care issues, nearly 40% said elder care benefits are too costly for their organization, and one-third said there would not be enough employees using the benefit to justify changing their current benefits package.

More than half of HR professionals agreed that:

* It is necessary to increase the contribution amount permitted under dependent care flexible spending accounts to help employees financially deal with elder care issues.

* Individual tax incentives for the purchase of long-term care insurance covering elderly relatives would help defray the costs of employer-provided long-term care assistance.

Compiled by Shary Denes, NTCA editorial manager
COPYRIGHT 2004 National Telephone Cooperative Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:ShortTakes; health care costs
Author:Denes, Shary
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:410
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