Our Experts Discuss Meeting the Needs of Aging Injured Workers
Jacksonville, FL – The aging workforce is significantly influencing workers’ compensation programs. To help industry professionals understand the effect this population will have on their claims costs and outcomes, Kevin Glennon, RN, vice president of clinical programs at One Call Care Management (One Call), delivered the session, “Understanding the Changing Needs of the Aging Injured Worker,” at the California Coalition on Workers’ Compensation (CCWC) Annual Conference in Anaheim, California.
“With 8,000 baby boomers set to turn 65 each day and many working past retirement age, older employees are beginning to constitute a larger segment of the workforce,” said Glennon. “Aging workers offer a depth of expertise and highly-developed skills, and they’re also hard-working, loyal and productive. It’s a huge advantage for organizations to retain senior staff, but they must also take precautions to keep older workers safe.”
In his presentation, Glennon reviewed the physiological changes that occur with age, often resulting in safety concerns. “Older employees may experience a loss of muscle, strength and stamina; their eyesight and hearing may also decline. They’re also highly susceptible to losing their balance and sustaining falls, so special attention must be given to prevent injuries.”
According to the 2012 National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) study, when aging workers experience occupational injuries, those injuries are often more severe requiring longer treatment and recovery time. The study noted that aging injured workers experience 50 percent higher medical costs and 25 percent higher indemnity costs on average than their younger counterparts.
“A key cost driver is the incidence of chronic conditions—such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease—which increase with age, making the treatment of a worksite injury more complex and prolonging recovery time. Workers’ compensation professionals should make it a best practice to verify if aging injured workers have pre-existing conditions, so these health issues can be taken into account and a more holistic approach to care can be developed,” said Glennon.
The presentation also addressed how older workers typically have a strong work ethic and want to return to work. Workers’ compensation professionals are advised to review job descriptions with the treating physician and employer to understand the physical demands of the position and explore the possibility of allowing the aging injured worker to return to work in a limited capacity with a modified duty assignment; thereby enabling them to recover while on the job and prevent re-injury.
“Being mindful of the special needs of an aging workforce is the first step. The second is implementing a proactive strategy that incorporates safety, wellness and care management strategies so older workers stay healthy and have the option to extend their work life, if they so desire,” concluded Glennon.