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Study: Caregiving costs businesses as much as $29 billion

June 18, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Workers caring for elderly relatives cost their employers as much as $29 billion a year in lost productivity, an expense likely to grow as the population ages, researchers warned Wednesday.

The 14.4 million Americans who juggle jobs and care for the elderly often are late to work, leave early, or take long lunches to carry out their responsibilities. Ten percent ultimately quit their jobs, said a study based on the first national survey of caregivers in a decade.

The study by Metropolitan Life Insurance was based on a national survey of caregivers carried out by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons.

``We found that two out of three caregivers are employed and half said caregiving has an impact on their work,″ said Joyce Ruddock, a gerontologist and vice president of the MetLife Mature Market Group. ``What this means is lost productivity for our nation’s businesses.″

She noted that the costs associated with caregiving will rise dramatically as the population continues to age. The nation’s 76 million baby boomers will begin turning 65 in 2011, according to the Census Bureau.

``Businesses who turn their backs on family caregivers will pay a tremendous price,″ said Ruddock, who helped present the research to the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging on Tuesday.

Some companies are beginning to wake up to the need. Thirty percent of major U.S. employers now offer eldercare programs, up from 13 percent in 1991, according to a survey of 1,050 companies by Hewitt Associates.

The National Alliance for Caregiving survey _ the first of its kind in a decade _ found that more than 23 percent of U.S. households have caregivers, and 14.4 million caregivers work full or part time.

The average caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who spends 18 hours a week caring for her 77-year-old mother, according to the survey of 1,509 people. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.52 percentage points.

Surprisingly, more than 20 percent of caregivers are ages 18 to 35.

``Eldercare is something that everyone will very likely experience in their lifetime,″ said Dorothy Howe of the AARP.

In its study of the survey results, MetLife focused on caregivers who work full time and spend nine hours or more a week caring for an elderly relative. It found:

_ 60 percent of such caregivers are regularly late, leave early, and-or take long lunches due to their caregiving responsibilities.

_ 17 percent leave their jobs entirely.

_ 10 percent lose six days a year due to caregiving.

MetLife computed the annual cost to U.S. business of lost productivity by using the median wages of workers, the numbers of employed caregivers and estimates of lost hours of work.

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