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January 01, 2001
Eldercare Needs Increase Employee Stress
Contributing Editor, Best Practices in HR

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An increasing number of employees are faced not only with the responsibility of caring for their children, but also with involvement in care decisions and caregiving responsibilities for a parent or another elderly relative. In response, many corporations have added - or are considering adding - employee benefits that address some of the problems related to the care of aging relatives.

Employee assistance programs, provided internally or through an outside agency, are often helpful in recommending appropriate referrals for daycare, hospice, meal delivery services, and myriad other services or they can direct the employee to an another resource specializing in these types of referrals. From an employee productivity standpoint, this practice makes sense. When employees are put in touch with someone who can provide appropriate referrals, they spend less time on the telephone making necessary arrangements and more time doing their jobs.

Online resources to share

There are an overwhelming number of resources that employees can access via the Internet for information about dependent care resources, caregiving support systems, and other needs. Here are a few to consider passing on to employees needing assistance:

  • The Administration on Aging ( default.htm). Although this is a website with no frills, it holds a great variety of information and links to other online resources for both older adults and their caregivers. One page, titled "Resources for Caregivers," htm, contains a listing of categorized resources and links to other websites and is tremendously helpful.

  • The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) (http://www. This is a nonprofit joint venture created in 1996 by three organizations to support family caregivers of the elderly and the professionals who serve them. There are currently 38 member organizations, and the website includes significant information and links to other resources.

  • Eldercare Locator (http://www. This website is maintained by the Administration on Aging (, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and lists state and county offices that can offer local information regarding care services.

  • American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) ( The Life Answers section of the AARP website has a comprehensive, searchable database for assisted living facilities, nursing homes, home healthcare, and hospice services as well as checklists that are helpful if you are considering any of these services for someone in your family.

  • CareGuide (http://www.careguide. com/Careguide/index.jsp). This is a company website that provides services for older adults and caregivers. There is an abundance of helpful information and suggestions here for caregivers and their older relatives.

These resources should help your employees get started when they begin to do research on information they may need to assist an older family member. When activities of daily living become too much for a family member to handle without assistance, it is better to be prepared. The best time to start researching options is long before an elderly relative requires them.

Speakers who are experts in the field are often available at no charge. If your firm offers lunchtime lectures or similar programming, it may be extremely helpful if you arrange for a speaker from a state or county agency on aging to help employees begin to think about the issues that may come up as their parents and other relatives age. The Eldercare Locator website (http://www.eldercare. gov) provides information regarding your local resources.

A unique care service answers emergent needs

Even when an older relative's care needs and assistance with daily living are covered by a caregiver, a day program, or combination, and a care plan is in place, there are circumstances when the care provider may be ill, a care situation isn't working well, or a caregiver resigns without warning. Then your employee will have a crisis to handle.

There has never been more of a need for backup emergency care, according to Marsha Cooper, managing director of Caregivers on Call (COC) in Lynbrook, New York, a 12-year-old national service company that originally offered backup in-home care for children, but quickly recognized the need to provide services for older adults as well. According to Cooper, "The type of service provided by COC is even more important when we're in a down economy, because companies need all employees to produce at their most efficient level." It's difficult to produce if you're juggling personal responsibilities as well, so that's where COC and other similar organizations can assist.

Uses local providers network

COC contracts with local home-care agencies around the country, but only after these agencies have been visited and quality of care has been assessed by a COC professional.

If employees of a member company need to access the service, they can call the COC's toll-free number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and explain the caregiving need. If the need fits COC's service of providing companionship and assistance, the firm will contact a provider in their network to arrange the care. If the needs are too comprehensive for the COC providers to handle, COC will refer the caller to an appropriate agency in the area that may be able to provide the services.

Cooper explains that there's an annual contract fee paid by employers offering the COC benefit to their employees. It's a relatively affordable service for smaller firms as well since the fee is based on the number of employees in the organization's location.

After that, the employers' role varies with each organization, says Cooper. Some firms subsidize the cost for the hourly caregiving fee in amounts from 30 percent to 50 percent of the first 50, 30, or 20 hours--whatever makes sense for the particular employer--for each employee utilizing the service. Other employers may not subsidize the cost at all. Cooper says, "This is a decision made by each employer, although most subsidize the cost at some level as an employee benefit."

For more information regarding COC, visit or call (800) 225-1200.


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