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Alzheimer’s care takes a toll on the U.S. workforce

Updated: 2013-02-12T22:21:51Z

By DIANE STAFFORD

The Kansas City Star

Caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia significantly affects a worker’s ability to stay employed and perform well.

According to a report released Tuesday by Workplace Options and the Alzheimer’s Association, fewer than half of such caregivers, 47 percent, held on to their jobs while providing care.

The report said one in seven American workers is an active or former caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or a similar illness, and the effect on the workplace is “simply astounding,” said Dean Debnam, chief executive of Workplace Options, a work/life consulting and service company.

According to the organizations’ recent poll of unpaid caregivers:

• 69 percent had to arrive late to work, leave early or take time off during the day.

• 32 percent had to take a leave of absence.

• 26 percent had to take a less demanding job.

• 20 percent said their job performance suffered to the point of possible dismissal.

The report said the increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s — one in eight Americans age 65 or older has the disease — means more productivity loss in the workplace.

The Alzheimer’s Association said 15 million workers were unpaid caregivers for people with the disease, and that number is expected to grow as sufferers of the disease increase 30 percent by 2025.

The poll, conducted in December, found that 69 percent of caregivers said their family finances were strained, and 90 percent said their caregiving was “emotionally stressful.”

“This data is a big red flag for business owners,” said Debnam, who advocates employee assistance programs or other employment-based responses to help workers cope with caregiving responsibilities.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

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