BOSTON--Employers have a lot of challenges, but there's one theygenerally don't give enough attention to: caregivers in theworkplace.


There are more than 65 million informal and family caregivers inthe United States, most of whom are women. And, roughly one inseven middle-aged adults are providing financial support to both an aging parent and achild, according to data from the Pew ResearchCenter.


And that's creating significant challenges in the workplace, panelistssaid during a session Wednesday at the National Business Group onHealth's conference on Health, Productivity and Human Capital.


"There is quite a mix of those who end in caregiving situations,and it's not easy," said Cindy Conway, group director globalbenefits for Cadence Design Systems, a Silicon Valley-basedsoftware company with more than 5,000 employees. "In each of ourcompanies we have caregivers who are thrusted in this role and whoneed our help."


The emotional and financial stress associated with caregivingcreates serious impacts on productivity and absenteeism, and alsodrives higher medical claims.


Read: Business school profs push for paid familyleave legislation


The statistics mean that it's time for employers to takeaction.


"It's a business necessity," Conway said. "Our business isfocused on people; we need them to be focused on their job everyday. So we need to give them the resources they need everyday."


Conway and Susan Pergament, senior director of benefits at AnnInc. discussed ideas on how to help caregivers in the office. Amongthem:

  • Regularly communicate with employees on these types ofchallenges and tell them how you can help.

  • Offer care programs for employees so they have back up careavailable for them.

  • Have various speakers, including HR and carrier reps, to discusscaregiving options and benefits.

  • Host webinars and presentations about caregiving topics, andallow participation in anonymity. "We record the webinars so peoplecan see them later as employees who are caregivers may be slow tocome forward to help," Conway said.

  • Offer end of life planning, and have an EAP counselor and a financial plannerattend.

  • Offer hospice care and accelerated death benefit. "Find a way tocommunicate and keep top of mind these benefits employees need tohave," Conway said.

  • Offer long-term care insurance.

  • Offer legal coverage benefits as a way to help with the legalissues associated with caring for a family member (i.e., lookingover a nursing home contract).

  • Look into free community resources, including from the SocialSecurity Department, to help employees.

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