Aging in the Workplace

The financial costs related to the issue of caregiving have a significant impact on the workplace.

US businesses lose from $17.1 billion to $33.6 billion per year in productivity due to the impact of caregiving responsibilities on full-time employees (MetLife/NAC, 2006).

Employed Caregivers

Today there are more than seven potential caregivers for every American living in the “high-risk years”—that is, 80 and older—according to a new poll by work/life services provider Workplace Options in Raleigh, N.C. In 15 years that ratio is expected to drop to 4-to-1.

Informal caregiving—unpaid help primarily provided by spouses and children—has long been the most common source of long-term care for older persons with disabilities in the United States according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.

But how can workers take care of aging parents and keep their jobs?

It is a balancing act. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted to help people look after loved ones while staying in the workforce. The law, which applies to companies with more than 50 employees, allows those who have worked for a year to apply for and take 12 weeks of unpaid leave (all at once or over time) to care for newborns, newly adopted children, or a child, spouse or parent with a health condition. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Labor Department has published The Employee’s Guide to The Family and Medical Leave Act. 

Employers vary in how they assist workers who need FMLA leave. All eligible employees are entitled to apply for their 12 weeks and to use any sick or annual leave they have earned.

A June 2013 report from AARP argues for improving the leave policy for working caregivers.  Keeping Up with the Times: Supporting Family Caregivers with Workplace Leave Policies. The report states that one in four retirees reports leaving the workforce earlier than planned to care for an ill spouse or family member and one in five workers ages 45 to 74 expects to take time off for caregiving during the next five years.

The report recommends a series of approaches to improve options for caregivers:

  • Expand relations covered by the FMLA, which excludes in-laws, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.
  • Promote access to paid-family-leave insurance through states and municipalities to enhance workplace leave policies and optimize worker productivity and retention.
  • Implement family-friendly workplace policies that include things like referrals to supportive community services, caregiver support programs at work and flexible employee schedules.

COA has resources to help both employers and workers with the challenges:

Aging & Caring: A Guide for Families & Caregivers© is a comprehensive resource designed to give families a starting point for caregiving for aging loved ones.

Copies of Aging & Caring: A Guide for Families & Caregivers© are available for $26.95 each and includes FREE shipping!

To purchase a copy of Aging and Caring, please call the Council on Aging at 615-353-4235


The Directory of Services for Seniors© is a listing of services for seniors  important to seniors and their families.

Preparing and Planning for Life’s Final Chapter is a guide to end of life care planning with practical considerations about end of life care options, clarification about important documents, and guidance on communicating decisions with friends, family, and medical professionals.


Empowering Grandparents: A Guide for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is a booklet addressing the needs of these caregivers by providing specific information, resources and support to assist in grandparents in this role.


ReNEW (Nutrition, Exercise & Wellness) is a booklet addressing the specific health and wellness concerns of older adults by providing healthy food guidelines and information regarding physical health and overall wellness. This educational tool will empower your customers to make healthy choices that improve their quality of life.

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Community Outreach Presentations and Booths

COA staff and expert volunteers are available to make presentations on topics relevant to Aging in the Workplace. Contact the COA office for more information.