The Rising Tide of Elderly Care: How Workplaces Must Change to Support Employee Care-Takers

Snowy Egrets in RainToday, maternity or paternity leave is at the heart of many debates. In the United States, many advocates argue that the country should widen its policies to support new mothers and fathers with longer periods of time away from work.

While it seems like every other country may be jumping to allocate more time-off for this demographic, a similar trend continues to emerge.

What about time-off policies or flexible work schedules for employees who act as caretakers for aging parents? It’s not a novel concept, in fact, employees who double as caretakers have been around for centuries. But, today, as we grapple with the large population of aging baby-boomers, more and more employees are asked to care for a parent in this role.

Step 1: Understand the Role

Who are these caretakers? These employees may be taking care of aging parents who are suffering from illnesses or disease. They may also be tasked with caring for special needs children, who are unable to attend all day school. Today, current laws protect the rights of employees and strive to accommodate a flexible work schedule. This is an extremely important goal for an employer to keep and practice.

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Step 2: Understand the Situation

More than 10,000 individuals turn 65 each day. As they leave the workforce and begin to collect social security, they’re also grappling with new concerns. Are they able to live on their own? How will they afford expensive medical treatment or care?

For the lucky ones, help arrives in the form of an adult child. While this may start as a daily phone call to check-in, it’s not uncommon for the child to begin to care for the parent as he or she progresses in age. Shopping and cooking for groceries becomes difficult. Keeping up with personal care might begin to slack. The time may arrive when moving the parent into an assisted living facility may be the best option.

The journey described above can happen quickly, or may take place over a decade, even two, depending on the health level of the parent. But it does mean an extra level of work from the adult child.

Step 3: The Employer’s Role

What can an employer do to support his or her employee who may act in this role? Here are 3 solutions that benefit the care-taker while allowing business to resume as usual.

Offer flexible Work Time

Shift your current structure or work operation to allow all employees more flexibility when it comes to job function. What does this look like? Perhaps you offer 2-4 days a month where an employee can choose to work from home. This can benefit a caretaker immensely. For example, now, transporting parents to an appointment becomes a much easier task to schedule and complete.

Personalize An Employee’s Plan

If your employee finds herself tasked with a parent’s new illness or emergency, do what you can to work with your employee. Don’t become the employer who adds extra stress to his or her employee’s life. Schedule a meeting with the HR director, the employee, and yourself and craft a plan that works for both you and the employee. You level of care will speak volumes and will inspire your employee’s loyalty throughout the difficult time.

Craft a Workplace Standard

Make it clear to all of your employees what the correct procedures and policies are for emergencies and time-off. Explain the importance of early communication. If possible, discuss the various examples or options. When an employer takes the time to lay out the guidelines, employees are able to follow the procedure in an efficient way. Keep in mind that early planning can be the secret to success.
If you’d like to talk more about ways to offer a flexible work environment, contact Stephen, founder at Koppekin Consulting, Inc. Stephen is an excellent resource when it comes to managing and retaining employees for the long-term health of your business.

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