But time is running out for employers, big and small. The fact
is precious few employers have any eldercare programs in place.
The September 2017 article “The Workforce Implications of
Eldercare” cited statistics about the rising number of caregivers –
many of whom hold full-time jobs, not to mention the hours they
take off work – and costs for looking after elderly parents. Maybe
the most surprising stat was that a person caring for an elderly
parent in Ontario can expect to devote an average of six and a half
years to this effort.
Employers, CEOs and senior management must do more
than think about eldercare policies, they must work quickly to
implement them. Many employees are struggling with eldercare
responsibilities and not getting the support they need at work.
The Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) is the
largest association of long-term care providers in Canada. Some
625 homes are licensed and approved to operate in Ontario with
58 per cent of them privately owned, 24 per cent run as not-for-profit
homes and 16 per cent municipally run. In a report from
February 2018, OLTCA said the number of people currently
on the wait list for long-stay beds was almost 34,000, with the
demand for beds accelerating about 15 per cent a year. The fact is,
there is a huge demand for long-term care beds and few beds avail-able
to fill that need, so families are left with few options.
In Ontario, long-term care is regulated and funded by the pro-vincial
government. Government agencies known as Local Health
Integration Networks are the gatekeepers who determine eligibil-ity
for admission and they also manage the waiting list of almost
34,000 people. The waitlist is close to five years and it’s going to get
worse as demand grows.
The federal government recently announced a new portfolio in
the Cabinet – Minister of Seniors – and the first person to occupy
that position is MP Filomena Tassi, a woman with an 89-year-old
mother. It is a good thing if the minister handling such a portfolio
can bring valuable personal experience to the table, and the same
goes with employers.
Employers, or anyone in charge of human resource strategies,
must recognize the current reality of eldercare implications in the
workplace and how this might position their organization and
their people for a crisis.
Today the term “caregiver fatigue” is rearing its head with
increasing frequency. It means many people in the workforce are
worn out and burnt out before they even get to the office. CEOs
need to recognize that this problem isn’t going away. Having good
eldercare programs in place for a workforce is not just a good idea,
but a strategic business issue.
The first thing is educating senior management, HR staff and
employees about the realities of eldercare. There is a common
misconception in Canada that anything involving healthcare is
covered. This is simply not true, especially with eldercare. The
costs of providing appropriate care for an elderly person in need
can be exorbitant; it can take a dent out of retirement or estate
plans, and even lead to financial ruin.
Likewise, an organization, perhaps a small business, can be
under threat if two or three key people have eldercare issues and
all of them take time off simultaneously.
Being prepared means understanding the financial realities
and time commitments one may face, and much of the latter
will involve research and navigating the system. Unless you have
unlimited time and resources, you are going to need expert help to
find and cost out viable options for care. The organization with a
program in place to assist its people will be ahead of the game, but
not having one can lead to a loss in productivity while employees
scramble for solutions.
Next, inform your workforce about available resources. An
excellent website is www.caregivingmatters.ca. It is a source of
valuable articles and blogs and can help explain such things as
Power of Attorney and what an Executor does. Consider having
some hands-on education sessions from an expert service that spe-cializes
in planning or coordinating eldercare services.
Finally, underscore the necessity of planning ahead for eldercare
transitions. We all plan for retirement and for annual vacations, so
why not plan for eldercare? No one lives forever and at some point,
people will be asked to help an elderly family member. Giving peo-ple
tools to plan ahead allows employees to keep their focus on
work-life balance. With no plan and an emergency-room doctor
on the phone, it is hard to keep that balance when crisis strikes. n
Susan Hyatt is CEO and co-founder of Silver Sherpa Inc.
stylephotographs / 123RF Stock Photo
MANY EMPLOYEES ARE
STRUGGLING WITH ELDERCARE
NOT GETTING THE SUPPORT
THEY NEED AT WORK.
30 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL