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Juggling Elder Care and Job Demands

About one in four Canadians aged 45-64 provides some degree of informal care for at least one older family member. Seventy per-cent of these caregivers are employed, and many are members of the "sandwich generation", with children still living at home or otherwise dependent upon them.

A rapidly aging population means that these numbers will increase. That leads to greater pressure not only on families but on our workplaces as well.

Workers caring for seniors may need to work reduced hours, use time at work for eldercare-related calls, or use vacation days to care for their elders. They may also decline relocation, work-related travel, promotions, overtime, or new assignments. They may even opt for early retirement as a means of accommodating the many demands on them.

Even with these adaptations, family caregivers may experience "role overload" and suffer sleep deprivation and other stress-related ailments that affect their productivity.

"The most common needs for working caregivers are flexibility in work schedules, information about services and aging in general, support from co-workers and supervisors, and help in making decisions about care options and related issues," according to a recent article featured in The MatureMarket.com.

Many employers are feeling the effects of increasing labour shortages. They are also starting to recognize the value of older workers and looking for ways to support and retain them. Some larger companies have started offering eldercare support services, but for many others, this is new territory. If you as a company or an employee are just beginning this journey, here are a few actions you may want to initiate:

Employers:

1. Raise your awareness of employees affected by eldercare concerns.
2. Assess current or potential costs of employee turnover, morale and productivity associated with the stresses of eldercare responsibilities.
3. Create a supportive environment for employees to talk about their eldercare concerns, and educate your managers to be sensitive to these situations.
4. Review your company's benefit plan and other company policies to account for this new reality.
5. Collaborate with affected employees on implementing new initiatives.

Employees:

1. Learn what benefits are presently available through your employer (e.g., EAP, emergency leave).
2. Gather information about community services and support available (e.g., respite, adult day programs, companion services).
3. If possible, enlist family and others to help share eldercare responsibilities.
4. Draw on the experience of friends and colleagues in similar situations.
5. Assess your need for alternate work arrangements, such as flex-time, job sharing, or alternate responsibilities. Prepare a strategy for discussing your concerns and possible solutions with your employer.

For more information on ElderWise services for the workplace, visit www.elderwise.ca/employers.html

For an in-depth look at this issue, see a report prepared by the Family Caregiver Alliance:
www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content/pdfs/op_2003_workplace_programs.pdf

Vol.3, No. 8

© ElderWise Inc. 2007
You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, a division of ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents. Visit us at http://elderwise.ca/ and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter

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