American Hospice Foundation, Washington DC, USA

Grief at Work

Click here for Grief at Work Employee Resources Online Login

The link above is for purchasers of the Grief at Work: Resource Manual.


What Employers Should Know about Hospice

Hospice offers effective solutions to workplace problems related to employee grief and caregiver stress. It is well known that depression reduces productivity due to absenteeism, mistakes, turnover and increased use of health benefits, but it is less well known that grief has similar effects. As reported by the Wall Street Journal in November 2002, the annual cost of death-related grief to American business in lost productivity is estimated to exceed $37.6 billion.

For employees who serve as caregivers at home, the associated burdens generate their own costs. A 2006 MetLife Caregiving Cost Study estimated that the annual cost to American business of full-time employees providing caregiving is $33.6 billion, including costs associated with absenteeism, workday interruptions, crises in care, supervision, unpaid leave and increased turnover.

Appropriate use of hospice resources can make a measurable impact on the bottom line, while helping employees with their grief and ameliorating their caregiving burdens. For details, see the following sections:

Benefits of Hospice to Employers

Hospice provides help for employees serving as caregivers

When an employee has a terminally ill family member, the stress and demands of caregiving can take a significant toll. Hospice can take some of the pressure off the caregiver with home visits by nurses, nursing assistants and volunteers who provide medical and personal care and help with routine tasks While most hospice care is provided in the home, where most dying patients want to be, hospices also offer short periods of respite care, placing the patient in an inpatient facility when the caregiver needs a break. Medicare and most Medicaid and private insurance plans cover these services virtually free of charge, along with prescription drugs, family education and counseling, and chaplaincy services.

Hospice offers bereavement support to grieving employees

Medicare, which pays for most hospice care, requires that bereavement counseling be offered to surviving family members for at least 13 months following a death. The 13-month requirement recognizes that the first anniversary of a death is a difficult milestone for grieving people. Most hospices also offer grief support groups to residents in their communities, regardless of whether the hospice treated the family member who died. With highly developed grief expertise, hospice bereavement counselors are an important referral resource for people whose work performance is negatively affected by the death of a colleague or family member.

Hospice is available for consultation in times of crisis

The death of an employee can create productivity problems for co-workers grieving the loss. Hospice personnel can assist Human Resources (HR) staff or the company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in helping co-workers to grieve the death of a colleague.

Hospice can cut healthcare costs related to chronic illnesses

When patients with life-limiting illnesses select hospice care over aggressive, curative care, they often suffer fewer crises and are less likely to be hospitalized. Results can include lower cost of care, less trauma, and higher satisfaction with the care.

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Optimizing the Value of Hospice

Include hospice coverage within healthcare benefits

Most, but not all, private insurance plans include hospice coverage. Employers should insist that the health plans they offer employees include this coverage.

Ensure that employees have access to information about hospice

Confirm that the EAP and/or HR departments are prepared to offer comprehensive information about hospice services to employees. Educating employees about the importance of living wills and healthcare proxies stimulates employees to think about end-of-life options before a crisis strikes. Resources offered to employees should include a list of local hospices to be used when the need arises. When available, the company intranet can help make information about hospice care more accessible to employees. For a direct pipeline to hospice and grief information for employees, provide a link on the company's intranet to the website of the American Hospice Foundation.

Establish relationships with local hospice providers

Local hospice bereavement staff will be happy to provide presentations or materials about their services and ways they can help in the event of a crisis. Readily available hospice contact information enables employees to gain timely access when they need it.

Educate employees about the Medicare/Medicaid hospice benefit

When employees serve as family caregivers, often the dying person is a parent who is likely to be a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary. Employees who are knowledgeable about the Medicare/Medicaid hospice benefit are in a better position to consider the hospice option as part of the healthcare continuum.

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American Hospice Foundation Supports Employers

"Grief at Work" Program

The Foundation's "Grief at Work" program includes materials and workshops to help HR Departments and EAPs respond more effectively to loss and grief situations. Materials include information on effective corporate policies for maintaining workplace morale and meeting the needs of grieving employees.

User-friendly literature for employees and managers

The Foundation offers a variety of brief, readable pamphlets which explain hospice care and the Medicare Hospice Benefit. The Foundation's booklet, Grief at Work: a Guide for Employees and Managers, which provides tips for supporting a grieving employee, has been ordered in bulk by hundreds of corporations and government agencies. Organizations that have used the Foundation's materials include American Express, Caterpillar Inc., Massachusetts General Hospital, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, and the United States Senate. You can order Grief at Work materials on our Publications and Products page.

Extensive array of articles on related topics

The Articles section of our website provides an extensive list of articles with information about hospice, grief, caregiving, advance care planning, and other related topics. New articles are added monthly.

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