Employee Benefits... General The Graying of ou...
The Graying of our Workforce
The Graying of our Workforce
By Peg Kramer, Claims Counselor, Hausmann-Johnson Insurance
Did any of us ever think when we started our careers that we would be working as long as we have and continuing to do so?  Wasn’t the magic retirement age 55 when you received your first paycheck?  The aging of our workforce is one of the most challenging trends to impact our workplace and has been for the past two decades. 

As the HR Professional, you need to understand this trend, prepare, and work with your insurance carrier claims representatives to recognize the challenges we face when our older employees are injured.

Longer recovery times – Claim severity for workers aged 45 to 64 is more than 50 percent higher than younger employees for both indemnity (lost time) and medical claims.  They tend to have longer durations of work absences due to injuries or illness and a higher incident of work injuries overall.  The three types of injuries being recorded are: 1) slips, trips and falls, 2) contact with objects, and 3) overexertion.

Preventing injury and avoiding re-injury – Aging workers are more prone to accident and injury.  This requires that we concentrate on Loss Control to prevent incidents, educate on ergonomics, and carefully manage returning to work after an injury to avoid re-injury.  Injured workers aged 55 and up report an average of 12 lost days, twice the amount of lost time among their co-workers aged 20-24.  This can mean more lost time, higher wages, and higher indemnity costs for older workers. 

Pre-existing conditions and complications that can occur- When you hire employees in Wisconsin, you take them “as is,” warts and all.  Medical conditions that they have such as epilepsy, osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes will directly affect medical treatment and ultimate outcomes if complicated by a work injury.  Were you aware that forty percent of adults aged 40 to 74 are pre-diabetic?   Hopefully these workers have these conditions in check prior to any work injury.

Diagnosis and Compensability – Obtaining the best medical care for your employees is the key to mitigating the loss.  An accurate diagnosis for aging patients can be difficult due to pre-existing conditions, and medications they are currently on can interfere with the diagnostic process.  Some medications can interfere with diagnostic testing such as medical imagery tests, CT scans, MRI films, etc.  You often hear the physician ask, “Are you on blood thinners?”  These types of medications must be stopped several days before certain tests, such as an EMG.  This can cause an extension in lost time days.  We need to make sure that our injured workers are seeing the correct specialists for their medical treatment for appropriate injury evaluation as soon as possible.

There are some measures HR Professionals and Claims staff can take to optimize care and claim management for this population group. 
Concentrate on preventative education.  Holding safety meetings or presentations to address better housekeeping, keeping work spaces free of extra materials that can lead to falls, and making sure equipment is serviced properly.  Advise (and enforce) employees to report service needs to their supervisors immediately.

Partner with medical clinics that specialize in occupational injuries and geriatric medical treatment.  Check to see that they offer in-house physical and occupational therapies versus contracting these services out.  This will save time. 

Offer gym memberships or memberships to a local YMCA for swimming, cardio equipment and classes, or Yoga classes.  Yoga is one of the best stress relievers there is and it works at strengthening our core muscles to prevent falls.  You could even offer a discounted price (company subsidized) as an incentive for employees.

Hold in-house health fairs for employees to have blood pressure screenings and other services that local clinics will put on for free.  Many people are not aware of their health status until they go to a yearly physical, if at all.

Check with your fellow HR professionals to see what they are doing at their location.  Two heads are better than one.
Author Bio:
Peg Kramer has over 20 years of experience in the Claims field. She joined Hausmann-Johnson Insurance as a Claims Counselor in 2014, and focuses primarily on Workers Compensation. Prior to Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, Peg was an All Lines Field Adjuster, and also managed QBE’s Workers Compensation Claims Department. She graduated from UW Platteville with Bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Psychology.
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