Elder care increasingly valuable

Programs help workers with complicated, emotional issues

One highly effective benefit program is elder care, a service typically offered with an employee assistance program (EAP). Elder care is one of several services that relate to life cycle and family issues. Through an elder-care program, an employee or family member receives the personal support of an elder-care specialist who conducts a needs assessment to ensure the right action plan is developed. With the specialist’s help, an employee or family member can save hours or days of time and effort looking for solutions and eliminate the frustration of mistakes.

Elder-care support involves guidance and information on situational services such as:

• emergency home care for seniors, outreach programs and companion and transportation services

• long-term accommodation options, including nursing homes or seniors’ lifestyle residences

• health-related services such as rehabilitation programs and palliative care, as well as the very important but sometimes overlooked caregiver support.

Elder-care users, like general EAP users, value the fact the service is entirely confidential and easily accessible.

Many callers only know they have a concern that is causing some distress or distraction. The care specialist on the phone knows the questions to ask to ensure the right direction, and the right type and level of support are provided.

Some elder-care clients just need information while others need coaching on the right questions to ask a care facility. Others are concerned about the quality or cost of services in the community and need support and guidance to make good decisions, while some need personal support such as grief counselling or family counselling.

Some seniors have worked at organizations that had an EAP, so one recent trend is the increasing number of seniors who call directly for services for themselves or spouses.

Given current and future demographics, it is clear elder care will become increasingly valuable to both employees and employers. Any service that saves time and solves problems will always have a role in supporting workplace productivity and quality of life.

Paula Allen is vice-president of organizational solutions and training at Shepell-fgi in Toronto, a provider of health and productivity solutions. She can be reached at [email protected].


Survey Results

Elder care takes significant toll

Demographic trends indicate a greater number of employees of all ages will assume the role of family caregiver with an increasingly older population.

In a case-study analysis of 17,097 employees, there was an eight-per-cent differential in increased health-care costs between caregiving and non-caregiving employees, found a study.

Other highlights:

• Among female employees ages 50 and older, 17 per cent of caregivers report fair or poor health compared to nine per cent of non-caregivers.

• Employees providing elder care are significantly more likely to report depression, diabetes, hypertension or pulmonary disease, regardless of age, gender and work type.

• Elder-care demands are associated with greater health-risk behaviours, such as smoking and alcohol abuse.

• Employees with elder-care responsibilities are more likely to report missed days of work. This is driven by the much higher absenteeism among younger caregiving employees, ages 18 to 39.

• Younger caregivers (ages 18 to 39) demonstrate significantly higher rates of cholesterol, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, kidney disease and heart disease in comparison to non-caregivers of the same age.

Source: MetLife study — Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs, February 2010

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