Elder Care Responsibilities: Three Years Down the Drain

Some numbers just hit you over the head. This is how I felt when I read a Gallup poll the other day called the Cost of Caregiving to the U.S. Economy. The study breaks down the cost of elder care in this country. Here are two of the highlights:

  • One-in-six employed Americans are caring for an elder or disabled relative
  • Each of those people miss an average of 6.6 days each year
That's a pretty significant number all by itself. Then I started to do the math. In a company of 1000 people, one-in-six employees missing an average of 6.6 days annually add up to a loss of more than 1,000 days every year. That's 1000 employees who have elder care responsibilities x 6.6 missed workdays = 1,100 lost days.

Calculating Future Business Losses

That kind of time loss isn't just days it's years. So if you're running a business with 1,000 people, you're paying literally the equivalent of three years in lost time every year because people have unsolved elder care challenges. And that was just in 2011. The U.S. Census Bureau says our population is aging, which means the number of people caring for aging relatives is only going to go up. Our own Modern Family Index tells us many employees are seeing elder care in their future.

Sobering Statistics for Employers

For employers, these are sobering statistics and proof that elder care is not just a personal problem, it's a business problem. Like any other trend - technology, demographic, scientific - it's altering the business landscape. And smart employers are looking at it exactly that way, pragmatically. They're saying to themselves that to preserve their bottom lines they're going to have to approach it head on. They're leading a trend of programs that offer both guidance to employees about how to sift through all the options and also actual, tangible care.

The Importance of Solving for Elder Care

The other aspect to this equation that can't be ignored is the positive performance effect. Being "sandwiched" between generations is hard. Taking care of children and elder relatives is hard. Taking care of an elder relative and working is stunningly hard. People who get support from the people they work for (in this case, with eldercare) are grateful and relieved. They pay their employers back not just by showing up, but by being great employees. People tell us this unequivocally when they talk to us about the back-up care we offer. "I don't know what I would have done without it," is a common refrain. Elder care responsibilities are a fact of life. Numbers don't lie. That one-in-six number says your company is going to be affected, no matter who you hire, where you're located, and what business you're in. It's yet another reason conversations about working families are taking on such urgency. Families aren't only children. As Ellen Galinsky told On Point earlier this summer, "We may choose to have children but we don't choose to have parents." That makes addressing this challenge good business no matter how you look at it. Because it's a simple equation: solve for elder care, or watch literally years of hard work go down the drain.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.