5 Things Caregiving Employees Should Know

Companies are beginning to realize that their eldercare programs-if they even have them-need to be ramped up to better accommodate caregiving employees.  And if they don’t, they should get cracking.

According to Society for Human Resource Management, the number of employers offering eldercare referrals has taken a dive, from 22 percent in 2007 to 9 percent in 2011.

That’s a problem. According to an AARP report, U.S. companies lose more than $33.6 billion a year in lost productivity from full-time employees. Absenteeism. Distraction. Unavailability. Stress. Leaving the workforce altogether.

More enlightened businesses offer information and support services, including workplace flexibility, discounted back-up home care for emergencies, access to geriatric care managers and paid time off.

Best Practices in Workplace Eldercare, a study out last week conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and two other organizations, surveyed 17 companies from various industries to see what they offer. If you’re a caregiver, you might want to show it to your boss! (Maybe not.)

Jody Gastfriend, a social worker and vice president of care management at care.com, says many employees don’t realize that their companies offer eldercare benefits. (Others are reluctant to use them, thinking they’ll be seen as uncommitted, or be risking their jobs if they do.)

Here are five ways to lighten your burden:

  1. Find out if there are eldercare benefits at your office. Online resources? Concierge services? Telecommuting? Adult daycare options?
  2. Consider what you will need and discuss it with your manager and colleagues. Their support is important. They may have to pick up some of your load if there’s a caregiving crisis.
  3. Think ahead, if possible.  Of course, elder caregiving is hard to predict, but know what’s available. You don’t want to wait until your co-workers are impacted or you think you must leave.
  4. Ask about the Family Medical Leave Act that can include time off to take care of parents and other relatives.
  5. Educate yourself. There are lots of good websites (aarp.org, caring.com, caregiving.org, caregiver.org, thefamilycaregiver.org) and support groups online and in-person. Employees who’ve handled thorny issues with bosses often “speak up” on caregiving forums.

Follow Sally Abrahms at www.sallyabrahms.com and on Twitter at @sallyabrahms.