Minnesotans are getting older. By the year 2035, more than 1 million Minnesotans will have reached the age of 65. This increase in older adults means that there will be additional demand for people to support and care for them. This duty often falls on family members who provide time, money and emotional support.
With more than 670,000 family caregivers in our state, chances are that most Minnesota businesses have several employees who are supporting senior family members as their care needs grow.
November is Family Caregiver Month, which is a good time to assess how your business can support employees who, in effect, have a second job as a caregiver for an aging family member — a role that can take both a physical and mental toll.
Consider these statistics from the Safeguarding Our Seniors Study from Allianz Life: The average caregiver spends more than $7,000 per year and provides more than 10 hours per week in support, doing such things as helping with grocery shopping, driving to appointments and engaging with other service providers. Less than half of caregivers receive financial assistance for that support.
One key issue facing both seniors and their caregivers is elder financial abuse, which can include malicious schemes to steal money or personal information.
Elder financial abuse can wreak havoc on a senior’s hard-earned savings, but the damage doesn’t stop there. According to the same Allianz study, nearly 90 percent of both active and potential caregivers said they experienced a financial impact when their elder was financially abused, with the average cost to those caregivers reaching a staggering $36,000.
Further, those who are providing care for past victims of financial fraud are spending significantly more than those caring for elders with no history of financial abuse, which in turn is negatively impacting the caregivers’ ability to save for their own needs.
Businesses should consider offering training, education and other resources for those providing care to elders.
Specific to elder financial abuse, this could include the following:
• Educate caregivers on red flags to help spot potential financial abuse. This may include changes in financial activity like inconsistent transactions, opening new debit or credit cards, adding new account holders or changing a power of attorney.
• Train employees to identify phishing and internet scams, phone calls from people pretending to be family members needing help, home repair fraud, messages from someone impersonating the IRS, or fake lottery and sweepstakes winnings.
• Encourage employees to talk about the issue with the person they care for. Elder financial abuse can be a sensitive topic. Opening up a dialogue about the issue and sharing examples of potential fraud is the first step in raising awareness.
• Offer access to programs often available through your health insurance provider.
Businesses can play a key role in helping overwhelmed employees get the information and assistance they need.
Walter White is president and chief executive of Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America.