Win-win: Eldercare support helps employees, employers alike

June 15, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

No matter how devoted to the job employees may be, their lives extend beyond the workplace. And an increasing number of employees are finding that their non-work responsibilities include eldercare.  Eldercare

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in September 2013 that 39.6 million people were providing unpaid eldercare in 2011-2012. Many of those caregivers were part of what’s been termed the “sandwich generation” because they find themselves sandwiched between two generations requiring care: their children as well as their parents.

The government’s statistics, gleaned from the American Time Use Survey, show that 78 percent of eldercare providers who were parents held some kind of job, and 62 percent were employed full time. Many employers recognize the difficulty of making work fit with caring for an elderly family member and have taken steps to ease the burden.

In 2012, The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) conducted a study for ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time) that examined employer eldercare programs and looked for innovations.

Titled “Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare,” the study found that employers offering eldercare help saw payoffs in the form of recruiting aids, better worker retention, enhanced productivity, lower stress, and improved health among workers.

Look to future

In planning a program to help employees with eldercare responsibilities, the study advises employers to consider the future.

“Employers of all sizes are well advised to plan for a growing number of employees who will have eldercare responsibilities in the future,” the study report states. “Not only will there be an increase in the number of old-old elders (85+) who need some ongoing assistance with their activities of daily living, but fewer employees will take retirement ‘on time.’”

Employers wishing to offer eldercare assistance shouldn’t automatically think the prospect will be cost-prohibitive, according to the study.

“Effective responses to the needs of employee caregivers do not have to be expensive or elaborate,” the study says. “A good flex-time policy can help the majority of employees who are having difficulty managing work and caregiving. Paid time off and allowing employees to use their sick days and vacation days for caregiving purposes is also a family-friendly policy that sends a supportive message to employees.”

The NAC-ReACT study looked at programs in place at a variety of employers. Here are some of the ideas in use as well as how the programs benefit employers:

Program elements

  • Offer employees free and confidential information including referrals, care plans, and crisis counseling. Include in the program an intranet site that includes podcasts and webinars on caregiving issues as well as information about support and discussion groups. One employer assembled an “elderkit” that is a binder with planning tools and sample documents.
  • Offer eldercare seminars, health fairs, and “lunch and learn” programs at the workplace.
  • Provide employees with subsidized backup care options.
  • Provide extra paid days off for eldercare emergencies.
  • Offer telecommuting and other flexible workplace options.
  • Partner with a vendor to offer free services including assessments by a geriatric care manager, on-site facility reviews to help families with placement decisions, and a fixed number of respite care hours per year.

Benefits to employers

  • A recruiting advantage when the employer can tout an eldercare program as an incentive for potential new employees.
  • An increase in productivity combined with a decrease in anxiety.
  • Enhanced loyalty, engagement, and retention. By preventing employees from quitting their jobs because of caregiving responsibilities, employers reduce the cost of replacing workers.
  • Improvement in overall wellness of employees since caregivers often experience health problems stemming from the stress of caregiving.
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