In a culture that celebrates youth, issues related to aging and caring for people who have terminal illness are often overlooked, if not neglected altogether — until they must be faced. For a growing number of people, that time is now. In 2000, there were 35 million Americans ages 65 years or older; in a little less than 10 years, that figure will rise to 55 million.
It's hard to think rationally about a loved one whose health is declining or is becoming incapable of self-care. Planning for the needs of a loved one prior to these naturally occurring events and anticipating the grief and bereavement when that person dies is a difficult and emotionally-laden process. But failing to plan ahead before a parent or a family member develops incapacitating disease such as heart disease, cancer or dementia brings greater risks.
In fact, caring for the elderly is not the only potential challenge. Sometimes a child, a spouse, a partner or a friend becomes ill unexpectedly, and one is called upon to provide care.
Postponing decisions about the end of life and failing to prepare the required resources — whether for palliative, hospice or some other form of caregiving — can lead to inferior care for the loved one, and the possibility of a disruptive effect on the lives of those who are attending to the loved one's needs.
Why do employers have an important stake in matters related to caring for those whose health have been seriously compromised? Baby boomers are staying in the workforce for longer periods due to rising health costs and economic uncertainty. At the same time, this post-World War II generation is positioned to assist those now needing care. A recent study found that 73% of caregivers were employed at some time while they were providing care to a family member.
This means that absenteeism and diminished on-the-job productivity, resulting from workers providing care to family members, will play a greater role in corporate well-being.
Thus, this toolkit was created to give benefit professionals and senior executives a broad overview of the multifaceted challenges both employees and employers are encountering in this area.
For example, what is palliative care and how does it differ from hospice care and end-of-life care? What is an advance health care directive? What are some of the important data pertaining to the impact of caregiving on workers and those who employ them? How do existing federal laws affect employees who themselves require short-term care? What can employers do to set up programs that support employees who are caring for family members whose health has deteriorated or who are nearing the end of their lives? These are just a few of the issues addressed in this toolkit.
The National Business Group on Health acknowledges the Palliative Care and End of Life Work Group for its guidance and support in the development of this toolkit.
Brent Pawlecki, M.D., Pitney Bowes (Chair), Michelle Martin, CBS Corporation, Charles Hackett, M.D., Coca-Cola Refreshments, Carolyn Smith, GE, Kathleen Tarleton, IBM, Susan O'Connor and J. Russell Teagarden, Medco Health Solutions, Cindy Sloat, PepsiCo, Melinda Groskopf and Rhonda Stribling, Tyco International, Heather Wales, Wells Fargo