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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Benefits for Care Givers

Health information has never been more readily available.  However what you hear about and what people need is often two different things.  Wed MD's Top Searches for 2011 have, so far, been Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms (Steve Jobs), Listeria (tainted cantaloupe), and Bullying (hot topic in the media). What people most struggle with, however, are the basic life balance issues and stresses that revolve around care giving.

A recent Gallup study showed that one in every six employees in America is a care giver for a minor, ill or aged family member.  Before you draw any quick gender conclusions, 46% of those are men and 54% women.  If you slice the data by age and income, the numbers increase to one in five for middle aged and older employees and those earning middle income and below.

The importance of this study, other than the human need, is that these care givers miss an average of 6.6 days per year in call-in, care-giving-related activities.  The lost productivity and paid time off benefits cost employers $25 - 28m each year.  While there's not much an employer can do about births, aging or chronic illness, finding a way to lessen the human toll and the expense of care-giving-related absences is worth addressing.

In looking at how to reduce this impact on people and business Gallup looked at several interventions.  The most effective, ranked by days saved, were:

  • 1.2 days - Counseling for assisted living or nursing home admission
  • 1.1 days - Access to support groups
  • 1.0 days - Paid vacation time that can be used for care giving
  • 0.8 days - Paid sick leave
Because our PTO program is flexible enough to use for care giving, and we have a sick bank program that can similarly be used for this purpose, I want to focus on how to access the two most effective forms of help: counseling and support groups.

If you are an employee of Thomas Nelson you have access to these benefits 24/7.  Our benefits programs are accessible at thomasnelsonbenefits.com.  If you don't know the password you can probably guess it or call any member of the HR team.  Once there you can find the phone number and brochure for our Cigna Life Assistance program with a 24 hour counseling and referral line, and up to three free visits with a behavior health care counselor via referral. The referral line is 800-538-3543 for employees of Thomas Nelson.

Behavioral health providers generally include Clinical Nurse Specialists, Licensed Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Family Therapists.  If you need more visits than is provided by the Life Assistance program you can access the Blue Cross Blue Shield network of behavioral health providers for your state by logging into BCBST.com and searching a list of behavioral health providers.  These providers can usually refer you to support groups in your area for your particular issue. Our insurance pays 80% of the cost for in-network coverage and 60% out of network (your plan option's deductibles apply).

You might not normally think of "behavioral health" as a source for life-balance or care giving services.  Not only can these services help, but according to Gallup they can give you the most effective forms of help. Please see any member of the HR team if you need help accessing these benefits, but otherwise they are available to you via 800 number in the privacy of your home.