Employees and Aging Loved Ones — Employers Can Be Prepared!

by Kevin K. Johnson, Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Subscribers and casual readers of our “Eldercare and the Workplace” blog, know that we discuss issues of diminished business productivity resulting from employees who are faced with having to sort out and assure the caregiving needs of their elder loved ones. Employees (often, instantly and urgently) become family caregivers as their spouse, parent, grandparent, etc…, begin to suffer adverse affects of aging. For this post, I thought it might be good to digress just a bit in order to define and perhaps, explain a few concepts regarding the natural process of aging.

It is my hope that this might provide a better understanding as to why employers in the United States incur over $30 billion dollars in lost productivity each year due to employees addressing caregiving issues for a spouse or senior loved one(s).

iStock_SeniorManWalker_Son_PMAging: Generally speaking, the word aging refers to natural changes that occur over time. Wrinkles, gray hair, walking at a slower pace, are all symptoms of normal aging. However there is another term that you should know.

Senescence: Senescence is the scientific word used to describe aging changes in the body. Specifically, senescence is the loss of function that occurs at a variable rate from person to person.

The loss of function that employees senior loved ones are facing are mostly due to either:

  • Chronic Issues — disease that is long-lasting and recurring) or,
  • Cognitive Issues — mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision.

From a layman’s perspective, I believe these are both senescence issues of aging.

Chronic Issues — The more common types of chronic issues that impact seniors and thereby, our employees who care for them are:

  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Pain

Cognitive Issues — The more common types of cognitive issues that impact seniors and thereby, our employees who care for them include:

  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  • Dementia, in all of its forms including Alzheimer’s
  • Delirium

Now think about how many people who you personally know that have one or more of these chronic or cognitive issues. It may be a friend’s parent or perhaps a distant relative. Think about the care they need, the time it requires, the stress it created within the family, and the learning curve that it took to understand and implement the respective care needs. A large number of us will age and incur one or more of these chronic or cognitive issues of aging that usually require care for what is often an extended period of time.

These are the type of issues your employees are faced with. These are the issues that directly result in over $30 billion per year in lost workplace productivity. As America ages over the next 25 years, this issue will only become more greater; the costs in lost workplace productivity, even higher! We work with companies to create an action plan and have it in place, ready to go for those employees of your’s that will face this issue. As one employer stated to me, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

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