Daycare for the elderly

Pilot program in Calgary helps employees caring for elderly parents

With more and more employees struggling under the dual burden of caring for their children and their elderly parents, some employers are starting to take note and lend a hand.

In Calgary, five organizations have signed up as sponsors of a pilot project to make emergency respite care available to employees. Under the program, offered at Millrise Place, a seniors’ home in the city, employees have the option of dropping an elderly parent off at a seniors’ activity centre for the day.

“Just to give you a scenario, grandma and grandpa live together. They’re not lonely, grandma is able to make meals for grandpa and things are okay,” said Victoria Sopik, CEO and president of Toronto-based Kids and Company. “Then grandma gets really sick, has to go into the hospital and grandpa is alone all day. We’re already working. We’ve also got kids and now we’re worried about grandma in the hospital. Well maybe grandpa could go to Millrise for a few days, or he could go in (during) the day and play some cards and I can go and get him at six o’clock.”

Sopik, who has been offering emergency child care through employers at 20 different locations across the country, said what she hears often from employers is that not everybody can take advantage of child-oriented programs.

But they tell her that “everyone has parents and everyone could use some form of support for their parents, so if we did something around elder care it would be very well received,” said Sopik.

Without expertise in elder care, Sopik couldn’t come up with any programming until recently, when the Millrise Place approached her company to see if she could put in a daycare centre at the seniors’ home. That raised the possibility of setting up emergency elder care through the services available at the facility. Among the amenities offered at Millrise Place are a cappuccino lounge, a library, a craft centre, Internet access, a pool table, a ping pong table and aerobic classes.

She found 30 companies interested in signing up for the service but had to limit the number to five in this pilot phase, when she’s still trying to assess the level of interest among employees. The five corporate participants are Enbridge, Deloitte, Nexen, RBC Financial Group and BP Canada.

Colin Merrick, associate partner for HR and administration at Deloitte, said he sees this service coming in handy when an employee has parents from out of town come for a visit and can’t stay home with them the entire visit.

“We’ve done a lot of research on the increasing need for elder care, both internally from an HR perspective and at our human capital consulting function,” said Merrick.

Though he doesn’t have a count of the employees who might use this service, Merrick said the aim of the pilot phase will be to find out whether this service meets the needs of staff.

And as with the emergency back-up daycare that Deloitte offers employees with children — employees are given three passes per child per year — it’s likely that people only use it once a year, he said.

“But that’s okay. It’s there for them and it provides some peace of mind.”

Audrey Henderson, manager of the Family Caregiver Centre, a publicly funded resource centre for caregivers, said she sees a “growing need for support for family members providing care to older people.”

With waiting times of five to six months to get a space in a day-support program offered through the Calgary Health Region, one form of support employers could offer is access to a private program, she said.

It’s also just as important to offer staff some flexibility when they need it, she added.

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