ALZHEIMER’S IMPACT ON BUSINESSES IN TEXAS
By David Downey
Pat was a model employee. Her steady performance over many years earned her several promotions. But managers above and around her began to notice she was slipping. Things weren’t getting done. Assignments were missed. Her career began to move backwards as she was repeatedly reassigned to lower positions with reduced responsibilities. Then one day while helping answer office phone lines, Pat realized that she could no longer remember who the callers were asking to speak with before she could transfer them.
Pat has Alzheimer’s. While growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to hear mention of someone older who was becoming “senile,” but the loss of memory or other cognitive abilities is not a normal aspect of aging. Although Alzheimer’s does increase in incidence with age, early onset may occur with patients being diagnosed in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Individuals with the disease and their employers are robbed of the employee’s work-related expertise, skills and experience.
The impact of Alzheimer’s upon businesses is enormous. Health care costs for persons with Alzheimer’s average three times higher than those of persons without this condition. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cost American businesses $61 billion a year, $16.4 billion in Texas. An estimated $6.6 billion is spent by companies in America to replace employees who take early retirement or quit due to care giving needs. The cost to businesses when employees come in late, leave early, take time off during the day or spend work time on care giving matters is nearly $7 billion annually.
Of the $16.4 billion in costs to Texas businesses, nearly $6.7 billion is directly tied to employer costs associated with Alzheimer’s care: health, long-term care and hospice. The remaining $9.7 billion are other direct costs, including lost productivity from employees providing care for individuals with Alzheimer’s.
Big business or small company, the odds are key employees are dealing with Alzheimer’s in some fashion, right now. Caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s themselves experience high levels of emotional stress and depression, negatively impacting their own workplace performance. Many may become “secondary patients” because of the harmful impact that providing care for others may have on their own general health. Over time, they personally become more at risk for chronic disease, health-related physiological changes, health care utilization and even death. Employer health care costs for employees who are caregivers are higher than for other staff.
More than 86 percent of large companies surveyed offer some elder care services to their employees, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, with nearly 70 percent of those companies offering EAP elder care counseling. Unfortunately, less than ten percent of the workforce utilizes those offered services, most likely due to the stigma they perceive that could be placed upon them. In a competitive business environment, workers are understandably concerned about possibly being viewed as “weak” or “needy.” This will only change when senior executives are also seen using the services.
To help employees deal with issues related to the disease or as caregivers, here are some options:
Business costs associated with care giving for Alzheimer’s or other dementias are increasing every year. Nearly 15 million people provide 17 billion hours of unpaid care with a value in excess of $202 billion dollars annually:
Many caregivers reported making major changes to their work schedules because of care giving responsibilities:
David Downey is a member of the board of directors of the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and serves as a Congressional Ambassador in matters of Alzheimer’s advocacy. Mr. Downey is President & COO of Corporate Rain International and can be reached in Dallas at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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