caregiving.jpgOne of the most disturbing stories following Hurricane Sandy was about a nursing home in Rockaway Park, Queens, that “failed to provide the most basic care to its patients,” according to a story in the New York Times.

“As waves slammed against the building for hours, patients remained inside in the dark, growing steadily more hungry and cold,” the article stated.

That’s the kind of scenario that worries anyone who has a mother or father in a nursing home, and it probably had many wondering how they can better care for their parents.

To often as a society we only focus on how young parents are able to deal with issues of work and children, giving little thought to elder care. But caring for mom and dad will become a major issue for many of us.

I remember interviewing a female top executive at an insurance company for a New York Times story I wrote many years ago, and she told me she never had to worry about having a flexible schedule because she didn’t have children. But now, in her late 50s, she confided in me, she was suddenly taking time off for an aging parent, and it was impacting her career.

Employers are starting to realize many employees have to deal with work-life issues as they relate to their parents, and research from the Families and Work Institute shows they’re becoming more understanding.

“Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, 75% of employers say that they provide paid or unpaid time off for employees to provide elder care without jeopardizing their jobs,” according to the Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers.

The report also found:

* 42% of employees provided elder assistance in the past five years and 49% expected to provide this care in the coming five years.
* Overall, 41% of employers provide employees with information about elder care services or Elder Care Resource and Referral
* 42% offer Dependent Care Assistance Plans for elder care.
* 8% offer access to respite care (short-term care given to a family member by another caregiver) so that the primary caregiver can rest or take time off.

“This high prevalence of elder care leave is perhaps indicative of the fact that decision makers in organizations are typically older and more likely to experience elder care issues than those not in decision-making positions and thus the former may be more sensitive to providing help to others who have similar needs,” the researchers speculated. “It may also be a response to the aging workforce and the high prevalence of elder care needs.”

Indeed, as the population ages more of us will face having to figure out what’s the best care we can provide for those important people in our lives who spent their lives caring for us.

(To help get the word out about elder care issues I’ve joined AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving, an effort to promote November being National Caregiving Month. All opinions in the posts I write about the topic are my own and I am not being paid by the organization to contribute to this effort. If you want more information check out AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center.)

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