Elder Care Becomes Employer Issue

By Porter, Sylvia | THE JOURNAL RECORD, October 5, 1989 | Go to article overview

Elder Care Becomes Employer Issue


Porter, Sylvia, THE JOURNAL RECORD


The care of children during hours when their parents are working has received much publicity. But a similar issue has been quietly gaining the attention of employers, employees and policy-makers. That issue is "elder care.''

"The research indicates that about one-fourth of the work force is involved in providing care for an older relative or friend,'' said Mark Zitter. His company, The Zitter Group, does research into the economic effects of an aging population.

"Three-fourths of those say it has a negative impact on their work. Ten to 15 percent have had to take extended leave or had to leave the workforce entirely to provide care for an elder person. Typically, a worker loses 35 hours of work per year looking after an older friend or relative.''

This has led employers to look for ways to provide elder-care assistance as an employee benefit.

"They've quickly realized that this has a significant impact on productivity and absenteeism, '' Zitter said. "It's to the advantage of companies to help find a solution.''

Others who specialize in employee benefits agree.

"It's a fairly new area, so the solutions are still being developed,'' commented Marilyn Woodrow of Coopers and Lybrand. "It's a huge issue. The most important matter right now is understanding it from an actuarial standpoint - putting a price tag on it.''

So far, elder care as an employee benefit can take any of several forms. A leading national footwear company, for instance, is building an inter-generational daycare center, where dependents of all ages can spend the day while the breadwinner is on the job.

In a number of communities, school buildings that were constructed to educate the baby-boom generation are now being converted to broad-ranging senior centers, providing both recreational and health services.

Companies, too, are developing long-term care insurance programs that are available to employees who want to insure parents and other close relatives. This can be done either in a stand-alone policy or as part of a more general "caregiver account.''

A less elaborate but still effective way companies are facing elder care is through flexible working hours and other forms of more fluid scheduling. …

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