Caregiving Issues and the Workplace
By Valerie VanBooven RN, BSN, PGCM
Many adult children find it financially impossible to leave their current employer and give up a much needed salary to take care of an aging adult. Caregivers are the most effective and efficient when they arm themselves with as much information as possible about their aging loved one's current situation – both financial and medical.
Once armed with the right information, most caregivers who work find themselves in a position where they may have to occasionally take off from work to assist their aging loved one. Some caregivers will have to leave the workplace completely in order to help a senior through a crisis.
Employers are aware that caring for an aging parent is overwhelming both emotionally and physically. Today, about one-quarter of U.S. companies offer basic elder care benefits – mainly referrals to help find caregivers and legal services.
Workers who care for elderly relatives cost U.S. businesses about $34 billion annually in absenteeism, replacement costs and lost productivity, according to a survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the MetLife Foundation. The loss amounts to $2,110 for each of the estimated 15.9 million caregivers working full time, according to the survey. The survey estimates that by 2020, one in three U.S. households will be responsible for taking care of an elderly relative, compared with one in four today.
According The Family Medical Leave Act, covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
1. For the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee
2. For placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care
3. To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
4. To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
Many larger companies have an Employee Assistance Program that helps find resources to care for an aging parent. Smaller employers may also offer some form of information including pamphlets and lists of local organizations that may be useful.
Other options include:
- Contacting Eldercare Locator, a service of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging at 800-677-1116.
- A state by state listing of paid leave programs for caregivers can be found on the web.
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During much of my time, there was no one else around when the kids and counselor were on the ice. It was desolate at times and I wouldn't see another soul for hours. Every day, however, I saw an elderly woman roaming the halls. She looked to be about 119 years old and she wore a faded navy jacket with the word "STAFF" on its back. On some days, she would take a seat near me, stare vacantly into space and playfully dangle her feet off the ground for about five...