Workers giving care to elderly relatives report being more attentive to their work after their employers adopted a geriatric-care management program as an employee benefit, a study suggests.

The study was sponsored by LifeCare Inc., Shelton, Conn., which provides elder care services as an employee benefit.

LifeCare conducted an 18-month study of what it calls “presenteeism”–which it defines as “being focused and on-task while at work.”

The study measured presenteeism levels of employees at a large healthcare company who care for aging loved ones. It looked at the extent to which the employees reported needing to make changes to their normal work schedules, their perceived levels of caregiving burden, their views about their own health and their attitudes toward the support their employers provided.

Employees in the study fell into 3 basic categories:

Users of a resource-and-referral program;

Users of a geriatric-care management program; and

Employees who used no programs for assistance.

The study, conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the Center for Productive Aging, Towson University, Maryland, found that presenteeism improved over time for users of geriatric- care management programs. In addition, users of GCM programs also were less likely to report harmful caregiving impact on their work performance than were resource-and-referral users and individuals who did not use support programs at all.

GCM users were also more likely than the other 2 groups to report that their health is excellent, and fewer GCM users report experiencing a change in their health during caregiving.

All 3 groups commonly feel that the use of caregiving programs is something to delay until a crisis arises, LifeCare reports.

“Too many people wait until after a crisis arises or until their situation becomes unmanageable to use the employer-sponsored support programs,” commented LifeCare chief executive Peter G. Burki.