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Demands Grow on Workers Who Are Caregivers at Home

Not just for the aging - but for boomers - Long-term care has become an issue.

Couple that with the fact that caregivers and their charges are both, on average, getting older. In the 2004 report, the average caregiver was 46.4 and the average recipient of that care 66.5. In 2009, the average caregiver was 49.2 and the average recipient was 69.3

On the home front, families should plan for how to support the country’s growing number of caregivers. McVicker recommends budgeting for in-home assistance and discussing early on what roles adult children are willing and able to do. The report also urges families and communities to help identify caregivers at risk for deteriorating health, financial security and quality of life. For example, doctors could also make a point of asking their patients about how they’re handling caregiving stress, McVicker says.

Companies respond

The workplace is slowly adapting to meet employees’ ever-expanding caregiver needs, Ginzler says. More and more companies that approve flextime work arrangements to keep new mothers in the workforce are learning that these programs benefit their older employees as well.

Take Bon Secours in Richmond, Va., a health care system that runs four hospitals and supporting medical offices. The company, on of 2009 AARP Best Employers, decided to offer benefits that specifically help their employees manage their caregiving and work responsibilities. They offer a wide array of elder care services to employees including: 10 days per year of emergency at-home care by trained professionals at a 50 percent reduced rate; respite services, which provides a break for the caregiver; discounts on long-term care; and a Grandpartners Program that invites older people to volunteer at the Bon Secours child care center. Flextime arrangements also allow employees to craft a schedule that best meets their caregiving responsibilities.

“These programs send the message that we care about our employees’ lives outside of work,” says Samara Musselman, director of the Bon Secours Family Center. “It helps them do their jobs, and helps them to serve our patients better.”

Of course, businesses not involved in health services may be more reluctant to offer such benefits, especially during a time when dollars are tight. But many corporations are starting to realize that offering flexibility is a better solution than losing mature workers, says McVicker. “They are realizing that if you don’t do it just out of being a good corporation, you really have to do it out for monetary reasons, because replacing a worker is costly.”

As boomers get older—and Americans live longer—businesses will have to find ways to accommodate workers whose time is in demand.

“In the ’70s the hot topic was child care,” McVicker says. “I believe going forward, particularly with the numbers of people over age 85, that elder care is going to be the topic.”

Cynthia Ramnarace writes about health and families from Rockaway Beach, NY.

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