Contributed By Fran Durekas, Founder, CCLC (Children's Creative Learning Centers)
When it comes to designing family care benefits for employees, companies often focus primarily on child care. Child care continues to play a huge role in employees’ well-being, but the employment universe – along with employees’ needs – is also evolving. Lately, I’ve seen a trend toward multigenerational care, and companies looking to support employees who have to care for elder relatives. This trend is likely to continue: according to a SHRM report (Society for Human Resource Management), as the working population ages, so will the number of employees with elder care responsibilities or, in many cases, both elder care and child care responsibilities – and this will apply to both male and female employees.
Elder care can be a difficult issue for companies to tackle. I recently had the pleasure of moderating a session at the Working Mother Media WorkLife Congress, “Dependent Care Strategies that Work,” in which the panelists all touched on the importance and challenges of including both child care and elder care in their employee programs. Offering just one is no longer realistic to keep employees well-balanced and happy.
Elder care is complex – employees may have care responsibilities for a parent, grandparent or even a parent-in-law – so there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution. Elder care is also an issue that employees tend to want to keep private, so it can be difficult to gather data on what type of elder care support is needed. Finally, companies may find it hard to make elder care services available due to limited budget or resources. But there are approaches that work – and work successfully. In fact, many of the inspiring organizations named as Working Mother 100 Best Companies are considered among the “cream of the crop” because they’re taking fresh, modern approaches to benefits that truly make a difference for their employees.
I’ve also observed first-hand how organizations successfully supported employees with elder care needs. In many cases, a company’s existing program can be repositioned or enhanced to support holistic family care. Flexible spending accounts can help employees provide for their relative’s medical needs, flextime and telecommuting can be a way for workers to care for elders, and Employee Assistance Programs are a good resource for employees seeking counseling or referral services. Companies can also turn to community-based or national organizations for partnerships. For example, the AARP and Alzheimer’s Association can host seminars or provide caregiving resources for employees. They can choose to invest additional funds or consider setting up a backup elder care center to provide relief in instances where an unexpected care need arises.
Employers will need to pay close attention to family care needs as the demographic of the country’s workforce changes – and come up with creative solutions to provide for multiple generations of employees. And leaders at today’s organizations – many of whom I saw at the Working Mother WorkLife Congress – will be at the forefront of paving this road. What elder care benefits have you experienced or heard about? Feel free to share in the comments section below.