Today, caregiving needs have become more demanding, and the costs to businesses come in the form of higher healthcare claims and lost productivity.
In this special two-part post about caregiving, we’ll talk about employees’ caregiving challenges, costs to employers, and what employers can do about it. Part 1 will focus on the challenges unique to caring for children with special needs.
Caregiving for Children With Special Needs
Almost 14% of all children under age 18 in the United States have a special healthcare need (a chronic or severe health or mental health problem that requires more intensive or specialized care than children normally require), according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1)
Some conditions, as the medical community learns more about them, are being diagnosed with greater frequency. For example, in the 1970s the rate of autism was one in 5,000 children; now, that number is one in 88, or over one percent of the population.(2)
The Impact on Businesses
Although all types of childrearing involve responsibility and stress, caregivers of children with special needs are under even more pressure. A 2009 National Alliance for Caregiving & AARP study revealed that three out of four caregivers of children with exceptional care needs had to make changes to their work situation. These changes included: cutting back hours or taking a less demanding job, giving up work entirely, or losing benefits.
They are also twice as likely to report their health as “fair or poor,” in comparison to the general adult population.(3) Higher rates of anxiety and depression have been observed; mothers of children with autism are much more likely to report being “highly stressed” as opposed to other mothers.(4) And they are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors: smoking, less physical activity, using seatbelts less frequently, and sleeping for fewer hours.(5) Many of these factors can lead to more healthcare-related expenses and less productivity at the office.
However, would more information and support make a difference for this population? According to the National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP study, 85% of parents and guardians of children with special needs feel they need more help or information about at least one topic related to caregiving (e.g., stress management, family-work balance, time for self, communication with doctors, and managing challenging behaviors).
What Can Employers Do?
Stay tuned for the second half of “Why Employers Should Care About Care,” in which we’ll explain the impact of older adult care on today’s workforce, and what employers can do to control related costs and improve productivity and engagement in this growing population of workers.
Part 2 is now up.
--by Joanna Kim and Martha Harrison
Joanna Kim is a Writer and Content Strategist for HRI.
Martha Harrison, MPH is HRI’s Senior Content Strategist and specializes in workplace health and wellness and family care issues.
(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs Chartbook 2005–2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008.
(2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6103a1.htm?s_cid=ss6103a1_w
(3) National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP. Caregivers of children: A focused look at those caring for a child with special needs under the age of 18. Available at: http://www.caregiving.org/pdf/research/Report_Caregivers_of_Children_11-12-09.pdf. Accessed November 2, 2011.
(4) Burton W, Conti D, Pransky G, Edington D. Caregiving for Ill Dependents and Its Association with Employee Health Risks and Productivity. JOEM. 2004;46(10):1048-1056.
(5) Powers ET. Children’s health and maternal work activity: estimates under alternative disability definitions. J Hum Resour. 2004;38(3):522-556.