Life is sweet at home

“Sandwich Generation” Needs Employers to Help with Elder Care Benefits

Three generations. Photo courtesy FromSandToGlass

Guess what? Child care issues are passé. The new elephant in the room is elder care.

Here is why – about 44 million Americans provide care for adult relatives says the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC). Put another way, one in five, full-time employees is a caregiver for an older adult and nearly three-quarters of these employees have children under the age of 18 as well.

I am a member of the “sandwich generation.” That is, my friends and colleagues make up the age group of those raising children and serving as a caregiver for older relatives. Many of us face double worries.

Sandwich Generation is caught between the needs of teens and elders. Courtesy Auburn Alumni Association

According to studies by MetLife, our generation’s situation costs U.S. businesses about $34 billion in terms of caregiver absenteeism, “presenteeism” (being at work in body but not in mind), workday interruptions, unpaid leave and related issues. The stresses of caregiving also affect workers’ own health, costing employers an estimated $29 billion per year. Oh, yes, In the next 20 years, nearly 40 percent of the workforce is estimated to be caring for the elderly.

What can employers do to keep these valuable employees on the job?

The study suggests employers can do a lot to help provide stress management information and can assist with workplace changes such as flex time off to care for relatives.

It recommends employers:

• Provide a range of decision-support services.
• Encourage workers to use free resources (DHSH, Eldercare Locator)
• Contract with geriatric care managers to provide advice.

In the Northwest an increasing number of forward-thinking companies such as REI and Boeing are looking at elder care benefits as a retention strategy and a way to reduce productivity losses. REI, for example, offers 12 weeks of paid leave and long-term care options. Boeing allows employees to take family and medical leave as well as provides free resources to help find elder care.

Nationally, organizations such as Princeton University and Freddie Mac provide a full menu of in-home elder care benefits such as Backup Care, which finds last minute elder caregivers within two hours of the initial call. The employee can go to work because the care crisis has been managed.

If you are a member of the “sandwich generation” or even what I’ll call an “open-face sandwich” (just elder parents), I hope this information empowers you and your employer to look at ways to make your many responsibilities go smoother.

Please let us know about your situation. How do you manage? Do you get support from your employer?