Alzheimers caregivers

How Alzheimer’s Caregiving Impacts U.S. Work Force

Feb. 20, 2013
Take a look at your workers. Odds are, some of them are or have been caretakers for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia – responsibilities that could impact their work and emotional well-being.

A new poll reveals that 15 percent of American workers are current or former caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a number that can have wide-reaching effects on work force retention and productivity.

The new poll, commissioned by Workplace Options in conjunction with the Alzheimer's Association, showed that only 47 percent of these caregivers were able to maintain their employment while providing care for the Alzheimer’s or dementia patient. This figure, among other findings, led Workplace Options CEO Dean Debnam to call the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia on the American work force “simply astounding.”

"Caring for a loved one with dementia is an incredible responsibility, and that responsibility obviously has serious consequences on an individual's ability to maintain employment and perform as a professional,” Debman said.

One in eight Americans age 65 and older has Alzheimer's disease, while millions more have another form of dementia. According to the 2012 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report from the Alzheimer's Association, the prevalence of dementia is expanding rapidly as the U.S. population ages. By 2025, the number of people living with Alzheimer's will rise to an estimated 6.7 million – a 30 percent increase from 2012. Additionally, 15 million people in the U.S. currently provide unpaid care for someone with dementia.

Support Your Caregiver Employees

Building on the findings of The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's released in 2010, this poll shows that, in general, caregiving responsibilities significantly affect an individual's ability to perform job responsibilities. Among those who work, or worked, while also providing care:

  • 69 percent had to modify their schedules (arriving late, leaving early, taking time off during the day).
  • 32 percent had to take a leave of absence.
  • 26 percent changed jobs for a less-demanding role.
  • 20 percent saw their work performance suffer to the point of possible dismissal.
  • 69 percent said that caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia strained their family finances.
  • 90 percent characterized their caregiving as emotionally stressful.

“This data is a big red flag for business owners,” Debnam said. “These diseases impact the productivity of one out of every seven American workers right now. That's a ratio that will only increase. Getting support programs in place to help these people cope with the emotional and physical tolls of providing care are decisions that will directly affect the bottom line - and the impact will be greater tomorrow than it is today."

The national survey polled 530 Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers and was conducted by Public Policy Polling in December 2012.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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