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What If Eldercare Benefits Were Offered By All Employers

By Cindy Carrillo

Let me tell you about Paula.

Until Paula’s mother broke her hip, she hadn’t considered the care her aging parents might need. They seemed healthy and independent. Like many professionals, Paula’s eldercare role was thrust upon her with immediacy and uncertainty, so she struggled to balance both her career and the care for her parents.

After her mother’s fall, Paula rushed to the emergency room and then took time off to help her mother recover. Her mother moved into Paula’s home, so Paula stayed home too and started to work again via laptop and Blackberry, using her firm’s telecommuting program. When Paula had critical client meetings, she contacted her firm’s backup care provider to arrange for a trusted, affordable caregiver to come into her home and offer her mother assistance, so Paula could return to the office.

After discussing her situation with a geriatric care manager offered by her firm, Paula realized that her parents could no longer live alone or in her home; they both needed supervision in a safe, stimulating environment. Paula called the firm’s information and referral service; she requested solutions for her parents’ long-term care and received articles about how to decide on care arrangements for aging loved ones, plus detailed information about assisted living facilities near her.

When Paula realized she was overwhelmed, she wasn’t nervous about speaking to her HR director about her concerns. The HR director offered free counseling sessions through the firm’s employee assistance program and invited Paula to a support group to speak with other working caregivers and learn how to manage the stress caused by her new role.

Fortunately, Paula’s employer anticipated the eldercare challenges that employees at the firm might face. Although they should, not all employers offer extensive eldercare benefits to help employees support their aging loved ones while remaining productive at work.

These statistics illustrate the number of people like Paula who are (or soon will be) managing both eldercare responsibilities and their careers.

  • 41% of baby boomers with a living parent are providing care through personal help, financial assistance or both. Of those who aren’t providing care for parents now, 37% think they will someday.(1)
  • 60% of those caring for a senior adult are working – most full-time.(2)
  • By 2030, almost 20% of Americans will be 65 or older.(3)

Consider the impact eldercare challenges have on the workplace.

  • The annual cost to employers for full-time employees who are caregivers of seniors is $33.6 billion – for absenteeism, replacing employees, elder-care crises, unpaid leave, workday interruptions and switching from full-time to part-time job status.(4)

These numbers present a solid business case for corporate involvement in eldercare solutions. When solutions are available, employees can stay in the workforce, get to work and remain productive while at work. Paula’s story outlines her use of several eldercare benefits – telecommuting, backup care, geriatric care management, information and referral, employee assistance and caregiver support groups – but it’s difficult to list all possible eldercare benefits employees need.

Eldercare is complicated, which is one of the reasons it hasn’t yet been addressed successfully in our society or across the entire workforce. While aging is universal, every situation is unique and requires a different combination of resources and solutions. Caregivers need help to determine short-term and long-term care solutions, to handle the emotional aspects of caregiving and to manage their careers with options like flexible schedules, job sharing and part-time positions.

Everyone – employees, their loved ones, and their employers – ultimately benefits when working caregivers are offered these types of programs.

Cindy Carrillo is Founder and President of Work Options Group the leading provider of backup care for children, adults and elders.