Email to a Colleague

Advanced Illness and Supportive Care

Palliative, hospice and end-of-life care are not just for the elderly — employees may experience the deaths of their children or adult relatives, or experience terminal illnesses themselves. As the baby boomers age, a large proportion of the working age population will transition to a caregiver role for their parents, spouses and relatives. At the same time, there will be a larger segment of the overall population who will require the care associated with older adulthood.

Palliative care focuses on the relief of patients suffering from serious, complex and terminal illness and aims to provide the best possible quality of life for them and their family members. It is a central part of the solution to America's health care crisis, since it improves the quality of care and reduces costs for a key population — those with serious, complex illnesses who, while they number less than 10% of patients, account for more than two-thirds of health care spending.1 Palliative care is most often provided by hospice programs, though hospital-based palliative care is becoming increasingly common.2

Why Employers Care

Due to their diverse working populations, employers undoubtedly have employees who are caring for an elderly or ill friend or family member, as well as employees who are themselves seriously ill. End-of-life issues, such as caregiving, serious illness, bereavement and advance care planning, can have a far reaching effect on both employees and the workplace as a whole.

  • Family caregivers provide 80% of U.S. long-term care services.3 The proportion of caregiving adults who are employed and experienced at least one job impact as a result of their caregiving rose from 62% in 2005 to 69% in 2009.3 This appears to be caused by a significant increase in caregivers who had to go in late, leave early, or take time off during the day to provide care (57% in 2004 to 65% in 2009).3
  • The total estimated cost to employers for all full-time, employed caregivers is $33.6 billion.3 The average cost per employee for all full-time, employed caregivers is $2,110.3
  • In 2008, 38.5% of all deaths in the United States were under the care of a hospice program.4

What Can Employers Do?

Providing education and support to employees can help ease the transition while maintaining employee productivity and well-being. You can assist your employees by:

  • Promoting the value of your employee assistance programs (EAP) and other supportive resources to raise awareness and utilization among your employees and their dependents. Most Business Group members viewed their EAP as a supportive component in employee personal health and accountability, according to a Business Group survey.5 Other employers believed that EAPs serve to integrate both employee work performance and personal well-being.5 For more information on integrating EAPs into your corporate culture, please see An Employer's Guide to Employee Assistance Programs: Recommendations for Strategically Defining, Integrating, and Measuring Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Inquiring about counseling and other behavioral health providers who would be available to you and your employees when evaluating potential health plans.
  • Providing guidance on planning for the future and educating employees about the availability of supportive resources, including advanced planning resources that are available through both vendors and their employer.

Relevant Tools and Resources Include:

References (show references)

1 National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (2007). It's about how you live at work: an employer's guide to work-life programs and policies.

2 Pantilat S, Rabow M, Kerr K, Markowitz A. California Healthcare Foundation. Palliative care in California: fundamentals of hospital-based programs. Published May 2007. Accessed December 9, 2009.

3 MetLife Mature Market Institute; National Alliance for Caregiving. The MetLife caregiving cost study: productivity losses to U.S. business 2006. Accessed November 23, 2009.

4 National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. NHPCO facts and figures on hospice care. Accessed February 2, 2010.

5 Rothermel S, Slavit W, Finch RA, et al. Center for Prevention and Health Services. An Employer's Guide to Employee Assistance Programs: Recommendations for Strategically Defining, Integrating and Measuring Employee Assistance Programs. Washington, DC: National Business Group on Health; December 2008.

Page last updated: October 9, 2012

Resource Library