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Employees Caring for Aging Parents: What’s Your Role?

Nearly 10 million working adults over the age of 50 care for their aging parents. That’s according to a 2011 study by MetLife Mature Market Institute, which also found the proportion of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years and continues to grow. Essentially, a quarter of the adult workforce is facing down this very real scenario. If you don’t have the groundwork in place to support employees who unexpectedly find themselves as caregivers, you could be breaking the law or losing out in other ways that are as far-reaching as candidate recruiting. November is National Family Caregivers Month, so let’s consider a few different ways to view your role in supporting these employees.

Understand the Law

Caring for an ill parent falls well within the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) jurisdiction. As with maternity leave, only employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave. But, also like maternity leave, most employers do provide some kind of paid leave in addition to unpaid leave options in situations that would fall under the FMLA umbrella. Note, as the Texas Workforce Commission points out here, that if such leave is promised in a written policy or agreement, the leave is an enforceable part of the wage agreement under the Texas Payday Law.

For more information on FMLA, take a look at SHRM’s How-to Guide: How to Approve or Deny the Request for FMLA Leave.

Understand the Long Tail

Becoming a caregiver to a loved one can take its toll on an individual in many ways. The negative effects could appear in the form of logistics: Nearly 15 percent of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia are long-distance—living an hour or more away from a loved one—according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Or there could be health side effects: The Alzheimer’s Association also reports that one-third of dementia caregivers suffer depression and 60 percent report extreme emotional distress.

So while your employee takes on unexpected responsibilities outside of work, it is important to understand how that may affect job performance, attitude and satisfaction.

Understand Your Role

While FMLA may sustain you and your employee through a 12-week period, what happens after that? What is your role as an employer? Offering eldercare support and resources – either formally or informally – could be a key factor in employee retention. In fact, with so many adults serving as caregiver to parents in some capacity, a strong eldercare support program could become a key point for recruiting as well. Here are some Texas-based organizations offering helpful resources to build a foundation of support.

  • Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services provides resources to help caregivers access long-term support. Its Take Time Texas website, for instance, offers information on both in-home and out-of-home respite care. This type of care varies from homemaker services to day centers and assisted living facilities.
  • Family Eldercare, based in Austin, provides counseling, money management and other caregiver resources that can help alleviate the stress of managing a new role as a caregiver.
  • Hospice Austin holds events including a lunchtime Caregiving Support Group every Friday from noon to 1:00pm. If your employee is not in the Austin area, reach out to your local hospice for support group information.
  • The North Central Texas Area Agency on Aging has made available online its Working Caregivers: The North Central Texas Employers’ Guide to Eldercare Resources filled with information and advice specifically to help employers support caregiver employees.

Have you seen an increase in employees becoming either temporary or long-term caregivers? How have you supported them? Are there other Texas-based resources not listed here? Please share them. We’d love to hear from you.

Image credit: michaeljung / 123RF Stock Photo