Employee Benefits Plans and Corporate Social Responsibility Programs can help
There are some good reasons for choosing to work from home.
Working from home may be an attractive time management option to reduce commuting to work particularly for employees who have caregiving responsibilities for young children and aging parents.
Working from home with caregiving responsibilities has its downside.
Aging baby-boomers are creating another boom.
As baby boomers get older, they will be the ones diagnosed with dementia, creating a dementia boom that will present major challenges for their working caregiver children, the health care system, workplaces and the economy.
- More than half a million people live with dementia in Canada, and it is predicted that this number will double in less than 15 years, reaching nearly 1 million by 2033.
The number of work-from-home caregivers of aging parents will increase and their responsibilities with become more difficult over time.
With the continued rise in dementia diagnoses, most of us will either be caregivers or work with persons who are struggling to manage dual responsibilities of work and caregiving for elderly parents with dementia.
Parking parents with dementia in nursing homes isn’t going to be the easiest option in an already overburdened health care system with limited capacity in long-term care residences.
Family caregivers will continue to provide more than 19.2 million hours of informal unpaid caregiver time conservatively valued at $1.2 billion of unpaid care. On top of that, caregivers themselves will incur their own health costs as a result of the impact on their health as a result of the onerous burden of caregiving.
- Total out-of-pocket costs paid by caregivers of people with dementia were estimated to be $1.4 billion in 2016 and are projected to rise to $2.4 billion in 2031
Persons diagnosed with dementia have a life expectancy of 4 to 10 years, which prolongs the financial burden on caregivers, particularly those in the sandwich generation who are raising families and paying mortgages.
- When compared to all caregivers of seniors, caregivers of persons with dementia are twice more likely to exhibit symptoms of distress, such as anger, depression or feeling unable to continue (45% versus 26%).
Caregivers of persons with dementia are more likely to be frequently absent or take more time off from work. As the burden of care increases with the progression of the disease, caregivers may be forced to take disability leave, require medical care, and endure further financial hardship.
- In 2018, the National Institute on Ageing cited the costs associated with caregiving to be estimated at approximately $1.3 billion annually in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover for Canadian employers.
Given the increasing number of persons diagnosed with dementia and the high percentage of caregivers adversely impacted by the distress associated with caregiving, it is reasonable to assume that a significant portion of the estimated loss in productivity can be attributed to caregivers of persons with dementia.
It is important for employers to realise that there is much at stake when the needs of their caregiver employees are not addressed.
Reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and disability, the loss of highly skilled employees, and increased conflicts among employees are a few adverse consequences.
Everyone’s work from home reality is different.
Everyone’s caregiving reality is different.
Admittedly, with employers offering remote work options to employees, it is difficult for supervisors and managers to discern the challenges that remote workers are facing and identify resources to support them.
Employers should prioritize caregiving in employee benefits plans and corporate social responsibility programs.
Employee benefit plans can be tailored to support caregivers
- Include dementia screening / cognitive assessments in benefits plans
- Encourage employees to ask for cognitive assessments in their routine annual medical exams
- De-stigmatize mental health issues in the workplace
- Enlist the support of the employee assistance program to promote awareness and education about caregivers’ mental health.
- Create safe spaces for employees who are caregivers to discuss their mental health concerns.
- Provide access to telehealth support
- Access to support services, counselling and medical advice through telephone, internet and other virtual platforms provides employees with on-the-spot and scheduled support.
- Promote dementia prevention and the protection of brain health
- Provide information resources to help employees identify their risks of having dementia.
- Provide access to programs that aim to reduce modifiable risks – such as proper nutrition, smoking cessation, support for alcoholics, physical activity tips, self-management support for persons with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure that increase the risks of cognitive decline, safety protocols to avoid head injury and protect brain health.
- Flexible time and work arrangements
- Paid time off for employees who care for aging parents, particularly in the end stages of life.
- Job sharing and flexible schedules for some types of work that can be carried out by more than one employee, without compromising accountability and productivity.
Corporate social responsibility programs for caregivers – an investment in the future
Supporting employees and young adults who care for their ailing parents should be considered as an investment in the future. Millennials and Generation Z are the senior leaders of tomorrow. Their contribution to the economy now and in the future is critical.
- Fifteen percent of persons with dementia are under the age of 65.
There is an increasing number of millennials who are caring for parents with early onset dementia. Some millennials have already become caregivers to their middle-aged parents.
As the trends in dementia diagnoses continue to rise, Generation Z or zoomers will be the caregivers of their baby boomer grandparents.
In addition to providing the abovementioned employee benefits, corporation should consider the following areas of action for their social responsibility programs –
- Support programs that promote brain health and dementia prevention in the general population.
- Invest in promising research on dementia prevention, symptom deceleration and reversal.
- Support dementia awareness and education programs for health professionals – over 50% of healthcare practitioners agree that their own colleagues ignore people living with dementia and 33% of people thought that if they had dementia, they would not be listened to by health professionals.
Dementia not only affects persons living with the disease. The impact of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias engulfs whole families and communities.
With the private and public sectors working together, it is possible to lessen the impact of the predicted dementia boom.
The time to act is now.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.