Nurturing Kids and Providing Elder Care for Parents Puts Burdens on Middle-aged Adults... and Employers
Recently US News and World Report published an article that captures the challenges of the 'Sandwich generation.' That term is meant to describe those people, usually 'Baby Boomers,' who are sandwiched between raising kids and providing elder care for aging parents, or sometimes even a spouse, all at the same time. And with the aging of the population coupled with the challenging economic environment of the past 5 years, more people in this situation need to work, which brings employers into the mix.
Strategies for Managing and Coping
- Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts - If your employer offers these types of accounts, what you may not know is that they can be used to provide for elder care not just child care. There are requirements that determine whether the person you are caring for is considered dependent. If they meet the requirements, you can set aside pre-tax (tax free) money for use in providing care.
- Consider long term care insurance - While this type of insurance needs to be purchased before the need, you can imagine how much it can help. If you, your children, and your parents' ages are such that you could find yourself being 'sandwiched' in a few years, this may be a viable. option. Often, these companies provide monetary support for in-home care, because it is less expensive than facility-based care. Of course, when the nursing care is required, your loved one is then covered as well.
- Utilize the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - FMLA is not just for child care or spousal care, but extends to elder care as well. Often it can be helpful during acute periods, say when your family member is diagnosed with a disorder like dementia. You can take intermittent or full time off from work for a while to set affairs in order, plan for future care, simply be with them, and so on. Meanwhile, your job is protected. You will need a doctor's certification that care is needed.
- Join a Support Group - If you are a LinkedIn user, there is a group just for you.
- Engage an elder care company to help - It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; on the contrary, it's often a sign of strength to recognize your true limits. Companies like Seniors Helping Seniors® offer a wide range of services including companionship, meal preparation, or transportation. Transportation could be to doctor's appointments, therapies, or to senior centers to help keep frail elders active. If the person for whom you are caring is living with you, imagine us even taking care of some light housekeeping in your home while watching your elder--less for you to do when you return from work. We can do all of this for just a few hours at a time or all day, depending upon your needs.
Strategies for Employers
According to the US News article, "It's not just a question of keeping employees at the office; workers whose minds are at work and not at home with their ailing relatives are more productive workers." Here are some ways employers can address the issue:
- Educate employees - According to TIAA-CREF, "Employees are starved for information. They want to know what services are available in the marketplace to help care for their parents or help their children. Many sandwich generation employees don’t want to outsource the care of their parents and children, but they do crave information and ideas. Referral services, webcasts and seminars are all helpful. Employers should keep in mind that this is the first time that so many people have been caught in the middle this way: There is no historical data and no lessons from Mom and Dad about how to handle the stress. Employers can help fill this critical gap."
- Provide Dependent Care Accounts - Typically these cost very little to administer and cost no other out of pocket cost for employers. Consult with your insurance carrier/broker to see what they can offer.
- Flexible Scheduling - Often getting the kids and elders off to their daytime activities happens just as the professional workday starts. Offering caregivers the option to start later and work later, or perhaps forego a lunch hour, can make a big difference.
- Work at Home options - Allowing employees to work at home, even if only one or a few days a week, can make a difference. Employees can start earlier, work later, manage the caregiving responsibilities, and often provide more work productivity, depending on the type of work. And, no commute time is wasted!
- Introduce elder care options - Establish a relationship with a firm like Seniors Helping Seniors®. We can offer home care including transportation, for just a few hours a day or all day, depending upon individual needs. The woman in the US News article didn't have coverage until 10 AM. As an example, we could provide just that coverage to ease her mind.
For more information or a little motivation, see the AARP article on the Sandwich Generation and how Brooke Shields is a part of it and how she is coping.
If you are a 'sandwicher" or an employer and would like more information or some help, feel free to contact us by email or at 610-334-4276 any time.