At Great-West there’s elder-care help on staff

By Uyen Vu
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/13/2004

At the Winnipeg-based insurance company Great-West Life, helping employees retain peace of mind is an important aspect of helping them achieve work-life balance.

That’s why the company has on staff a family services co-ordinator, Wendy Hague. Her job is to help any of the 2,300 employees at the firm’s Winnipeg offices sort out family issues, from parenting to elder-care concerns. Increasingly, the latter issues are on workers’ minds when they walk through her door.

“It’s mostly due to the age of our staff and the age of the population at large. More people have aging parents now and it’s starting to impact on their lives as they assume a more caregiving role.”

Hague, who works three days a week at the family support service, said she regularly sees employees come in with worries about their parents’ health and welfare.

“They might be afraid about their parents remaining in their own home. They might be spending a lot of time checking in on them. They might worry that their parents have a fall and not be able to access the resources.”

Hague’s role is to lend an ear and recommend services she’s aware of in the market and the community, whether for a personal alarm system or a set of walkers. She might lend out books on home renovations so that employees can help aging parents be more independent.

“And if it appears that the (elderly parent) is much past that, we would certainly refer people to the home-care system in Manitoba, which has an intake line and can assess whether the person can stay in their own homes.”

Sometimes employees walk into Hague’s office looking for more than just information. “They’re exhausted. They’ve been running back and forth and doing meals and doing laundry, and acting as the Number One social convenor of their parent’s life.”

In such instances, Hague counsels the worker and helps think through the options, whether it means a hard talk with siblings to review the sharing of duties or a serious consideration of a seniors’ home.

Part of her work involves raising awareness of these issues in sessions like lunch-and-learns, so that employees anticipate elder-care issues before they become critical.

“But it’s often in a crisis when employees come in (to the resource centre). That’s a source of frustration because whenever employees are in a crisis, they need the resources right away,” said Hague.

Hague added that she finds the information and referral service to have “great value to employees. They’re quite happy when they come on board to know that the service is available to them, and they are using it.”

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