Family caregiving is a privatejob of love and work. Recently it has been getting public agenda status from anunexpected industry – financial services. While caregiving is a well studiedtopic among the health and care professions as well as a strategic target ofthe information communications technology industry (e.g., General Electric’s acquisition of Quiet Care, Phillips Lifeline), financial services has generallydefined caregiving as an adjacent interest to their primary products ofretirement, long-term care and disability. New attention to the topic byseveral firms may indicate that in addition to attention, action in productdevelopment may be forthcoming.
Three ‘costs’ arehighlighted by recent reports:
MetLife has an ongoing research agenda on the costs of caregiving in the workplace. MetLife, inconjunction with AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, has estimatedlost productivity in the workplace to cost employers an estimated $33 billionplus per year. Employees coming to work late, leaving early, taking leave oreven rejecting a promotion that requires moving far away from elderly parents.
Stress & Wellbeing
A frequent topic ofaging and health researchers, caregiver stress in the workplace is highlightedin a recent report by The Hartford. The report findings indicate that themajority of baby boomers are “stressed out by caregiving and at the same time worryingabout how their caregiving is impacting their job…” The Hartford’s GroupBenefits Division released survey results showing that 80 percent of boomercaregivers feel moderate to high levels of stress associated with caregiving. ‘Younger boomers, between 45 and 54 years old appear to be shouldering thegreatest caregiving burden – nearly 50 percent of them reporting that theyworry about the impact of caregiving on their job.
According to US News & World Report, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management also released the findings of a survey of wealthy baby boomers.Merrill Lynch highlights a less discussed cost of caregiving – the financial cost. Anestimated 31 percent of American baby boomers with investable assets of $250,000 USD are providing care to an immediate family member. Nearly half of therespondents report cutting back on personal spending; and, another 12 percenthave delayed saving for their children’s college education. Long-term financialimpacts are reflected by the ~25 percent of wealthy boomers who report that they have stoppedsaving for retirement as a result of caregiving expenses.
Merrill Lynch’s study isof ‘affluent’ boomers, it could be assumed that boomers with fewer resourcesmay feel greater pressure of financial costs associated with caregiving –translating into greater impact on workplace productivity and overall personal wellbeing.
These studies providevaluable insights and public agenda status into the private lives and costs of caregiving.Financial services’ focus on the future (retirement planning and the ‘what ifs’of life) could benefit from product innovation that makes them relevant today tothe challenges of caregiving – engaging caregivers, their families andemployers. Creative products, consumer education on strategies to finance and provide care, as well as wellness interventions in the workplace may be a few opportunities for financial services, employers and health insurers. Success in the development and delivery of these innovations may enhance the lives of employees, elderly loved ones as well as improve workplace productivity.
Resources for Older Adults & Caregivers
The MIT AgeLab is conducting research to understand family decision making, the opportunities for technology, new products and services to improve the lives of older adults and those who care about them. On-going work addresses family caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia as well as new opportunities of ambient intelligence and home automation to support older adults seeking to age-in-place as well as distant caregivers.
Selected resources developed by the MIT AgeLab and The Hartford Advance 50 Team that may assist older adults and caregivers include: