How to Address the Caregiver Crisis?

It is estimated that, by the year 2020, there will be 117 million Americans who will need assistance with daily living and healthcare issues.

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First, the good news. Large employers are beginning to provide extended, paid family leave for employees who become full-time caregivers. This is a much-needed sea change in the evolving trend of providing family-friendly employee benefit programs. The bad news is that it is estimated that, by the year 2020, there will be 117 million Americans who will need assistance with daily living and healthcare issues. At the same time, it is estimated that only 45 million family members will be available to help care for their loved ones. The majority of these 45 million caregivers are working age adults who are now, or will be, primarily responsible for the care of seniors or young children in need of 24/7/365 care.

The impact of the caregiver crisis facing both public and private employers is staggering. A recent study by Farleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind on behalf of Alzheimer’s New Jersey found that 29% of respondents are either now caring, or have cared, for someone with dementia. Among the study participants, 25% reported spending 40 hours or more per week as a caregiver. It gets worse: 65% were financially affected, 85% reported their emotional well-being was damaged, including anxiety and depression, and 60% reported their physical health was hurt. In addition, 53% reported they had no other family member to help, and 72% reported strained family relations as a result. Another recent study showed that 29% of caregiver employees declined promotion opportunities, and 12% actually quit their jobs due to the emotional stress involved.

I know. I was one of those people and can check every box. (See Looming Caregiver Crisis in the U.S. 5/18/16)

I am delighted to hear that progressive employers are now addressing the problem by providing expanded paid family leave for employees who become caregivers. Deloitte recently announced, as part of a Family Comes First program, that it is providing as much as 16 weeks of paid leave for employee caregivers when they become primarily responsible for the care of seniors.

See also: Looming Caregiver Crisis in the U.S.  

Extended paid time off for caregivers is essential to help employees maintain their own physical, mental and emotional health. There is no way to prepare to become a caregiver. It will be the toughest job you have ever had, and you have no choice. Your job and life become secondary, or just a welcome diversion.

As a caregiver for both my mom and dad in the final years of their lives, I had to learn how to deal with Medicare, Medicaid, their finances, banking, Social Security, pension, living wills, estates, taxes, power of attorney, selling a home, healthcare directive and proxies, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate orders), doctors appointments, proper and appropriate prescriptions, surgery, slips, falls and broken bones, housekeepers and visiting nurses, to name a few. I also had to become an expert in congestive heart failure, diabetes, clogged carotid arteries, dementia and depression. One night, I got a call that both my mom and dad were on the way to the emergency room in two different ambulances at the same time. The only good news was that they were going to the same hospital.

Mark Perzinski, a 35-year veteran in the employee benefit industry, agrees that these extended paid leave programs are a great start that “allow employers to fully protect their best assets, their employees, by providing a paid family first policy. The problem is these caregivers need a daily road map. We provide that road map.”

Mark is currently working with Philip Gow at Global Institutional Solutions (www.gisandco.com), developing strategic marketing relationships for their caregiver services in the employee benefits industry. This is a one-of-a-kind program that provides 24/7/365 access to an extensive library of user-friendly resources, links, databases and, as needed, a caregiver specialist. The service also includes resources for elder fraud and estate settlements, Medicare assistance, guidelines and screening, along with caregiver access via tablets and smartphones that provides resources and tools at your fingertips -- all for pennies per month per employee. There is also an optional telemedicine service that gives caregivers 24/7/365 access to physicians to help address common illnesses, stress, anxiety, depression and personal wellness.

Gow stated, “We designed this program to address the caregiver stress syndrome that affects 42 million Americans and 21% of households. The economic impact is estimated at $500 billion per year, up from $375 billion in 2007.”

This is a robust model that can help track and manage medical appointments, prescription drug regiments and adherence, while providing access to databases on everything from federally rated nursing homes, assisted living facilities and dialysis centers, to housekeeping and daily living services. Caregivers also have direct access to resources for chronic medical conditions such as oncology, head trauma, pulmonary vascular disease, congestive heart disease and dementia.

See also: 5 Trends for Employers to Watch in 2018  

The only technology available to me was my cell phone and answering machine.

For more information about the caregiver program at Global Institutional Services, contact Mark Perzinski at mark.perzinski@gisandco.com.


Daniel Miller

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Daniel Miller

Dan Miller is president of Daniel R. Miller, MPH Consulting. He specializes in healthcare-cost containment, absence-management best practices (STD, LTD, FMLA and workers' comp), integrated disability management and workers’ compensation managed care.

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