Bring Your Mom to Work: On-Site Elder Day Care at Workplaces

 

Karen spent many years in school to get her PhD, followed by years of work to become a tenured professor at a university, and eventually a department head. She and her husband delayed starting a family, and when she was in her mid 40’s and at the peak of her career, she had her first child. Every morning, she dropped off her infant daughter, Emily, at the daycare at her university. Things seemed to be working well, until she became a caregiver for her mother, who is in the early stages of dementia.

At first, her mother seemed fine living in Karen’s home, with a paid caregiver coming in to help out intermittently. Then, as time progressed, Karen’s mom’s condition worsened. The day Karen received a scary call about her mother wandering through the neighborhood was when she realized her mother was no longer safe on her own. What should she do? She couldn’t quit her job, and her husband traveled often for his work. She wanted her mother to be able to stay with her for as long as possible. She secretly wished she could bring her mother to work for caregiving as she does her daughter. Soon, maybe she can.

On-Site Daycare, and Bringing Pets to Work . . . Why Not On-Site Elder Day Care?

The average age of caregivers is 49 — a peak year for earnings and for career achievement. As you can see from Karen’s situation in our example, holding a job, being a parent, and caring for a parent at home can be a huge challenge as you attempt to balance competing demands on your time and energy. As our population ages, more families than ever are having to balance this type of care. For more details on this common situation and for tips, please read our recent article on the Sandwich Generation.

Work disruptions due to employee caregiving responsibilities result in productivity losses to businesses at an estimated cost of $33.6 billion per year. So, how are companies responding? Currently, about a third of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For have on-site child daycare centers. Other companies, such as Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, and Amazon, even let you bring your dog to work. But, what about the 24 million Americans — almost half our country’s 40- and 50-year-olds — who are part of the Sandwich Generation that’s simultaneously caring not only their children, but also for an older parent or adult?

Eldercare at Work Idea Addressed at World Economic Forum

Thomas DeRosa, the CEO of Welltower, a $24 billion real estate trust that invests in housing and assisted-living properties for older people, shared the idea of elder care at work at this year’s World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, during a panel discussion called “What If You Are Still Alive in 2100?” DeRosa predicted that major corporations could soon allow employees to bring elderly parents or family members to a workplace-based elder daycare system.

The panel discussion where DeRosa’s idea was introduced also addressed topics such as whether the retirement age should be raised, what genetic and sociological factors make a person more likely to live longer, whether governments are prepared for an aging population, whether cities are well-equipped for more older people, and what skill sets older people have that younger people are lacking. However, when it was brought up, DeRosa’s “big idea” really stood out to participants.

He told Business Insider afterwards: “If you think about a business where most the employees are my age (he is in his early 50’s) and think about the people who are faced with: ‘I can’t afford $8,000 a month, my mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and I’m the eldest son or daughter who lives within proximity,’ you have to leave your job. That’s a 24/7 job. Think about the productivity improvement of not losing these skilled employees [by preventing them from having to leave the workplace to become full-time caregivers to their parents.]”

What Your Workplace Can Do (and what are your rights?)

Unfortunately, elder care at work is just a concept at this time, and not a reality yet. However, a growing number of employers recognize caregiving as a workplace issue that affects everyone. Larger corporations sometimes are able to offer support in ways that smaller ones cannot. But there are actions that companies of any size can take to support employees who have caregiving responsibilities:

  • Flexibility in work hours, including a change in hours; a part-time schedule; a compressed work schedule; job sharing; telecommuting and more, could prove to be helpful. Studies show that flexible scheduling improves job performance, decreases tardiness and employee turnover and increases job satisfaction and retention (even for employees are who are not currently caregivers).
  • Companies with 50 or more employees must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (or 26 weeks to care for an active service member). The leave may be used to care for a seriously ill parent, spouse or child. Job and health insurance are protected. However, approximately half of U.S. companies have fewer than 50 employees and are exempt from FMLA requirements.
  • Paid Family Leave is a mandated benefit that covers caregivers of a seriously ill parent, child, spouse or registered domestic partner, as well as new parents. Only a handful of states currently require paid family leave.
  • Various state regulations and certain sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit employers from discriminating against caregiving employees (for example, passing over employees for promotion or stereotyping employees because of caregiving status).
  • Company-sponsored training for supervisors enhances understanding of the conflicting demands of work and caregiving and ensures that mandates for family leave and antidiscrimination regulations are met.
  • Sometimes, larger businesses organize in-house caregiver support groups, informational brown-bag lunch sessions or offer access to outside support groups.
  • Some large companies have in-house social workers or geriatric care managers that are there to help employees.  For example, Iona is a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive support and resources to help employees through the challenges of care-giving. Iona partners with large corporate clients to provide
  • full- or part-time on-site professional consulting by a licensed social worker
    • in-depth customized resources and referrals
    • educational seminars on caregiving and retirement
    • professionally facilitated support groups, and
    • articles for employees on aging/care giving issues
  • Businesses of all size and government agencies frequently host guest speakers, often during a “Lunch and Learn,” on topics relating to Elder Law and Elder Care.  I, for example, have spoken about Estate Planning and Elder Law for caregivers at several “Lunch and Learns” – at Fannie Mae, George Mason University, Mobile/Exxon, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, to name a few.

Take Care of Yourself 

Negotiating time off work, coping with tension-filled family dynamics, and managing your own fears and concerns about your loved one’s well-being all contribute to increased stress and potential burn-out. It’s not selfish to say you need to care for you. Remember to do what you can to stay healthy: eat well, try to get some good sleep and exercise, and seek respite care to give yourself a break. Try to be flexible, accept that you may have to let go of some duties and remember that there will good days and bad days.

When Long-Term Care is Needed

There will most likely come a time when at home (or at work) caregiving is not enough for a loved one. Medicaid planning for a loved one can be started while he or she is still able to make legal and financial decisions, or can be initiated by an adult child acting as agent under a properly-drafted Power of Attorney, even if you are already in a nursing home or receiving other long-term care.  In fact, the majority of our Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection clients come to us when nursing home care is already in place or is imminent. It is never too late to begin the process of Long-term Care Planning, also called Lifecare Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection Planning.

Planning for long-term care does not eliminate your risk of needing it, but it enables you to sort options and make smarter decisions ahead of time. As a result, you’ll have the peace of mind that no matter what happens, you will know what to do as a family. If you or your loved ones have not done Long-Term Care Planning, please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

 

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