Helping Employees with Aging Parents

retireesIt’s an issue that doesn’t get talked about enough.

While millennial employees are pushing conversations about work-life balance into the the mainstream, there’s less talk about the increasing number of older employees dealing with aging parents.

As reported by the Washington Post, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease will likely triple by the year 2050. People may be living longer lives, but there’s still a prevalence of chronic conditions that put elders in a position where they can’t take care of themselves.

Because more and more employees may be dealing with the responsibilities of eldercare, it’s vital for business owners to understand why and how they can offer support.

Why it Matters

Emotions and morals aside, providing support to employees with aging parents has a legal precedent.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 protects qualified employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave per year for circumstances such as pregnancy or family illness.

On a productivity level, providing adequate support to employees taking care of aging parents is more cost-effective in the long run.

Stressed workers are sicker workers. Employers can avoid costly absenteeism and burn-out by getting out ahead and deploying proactive strategies to support their employees.

Flexible Hours

While certain jobs require employees to be onsite and hands on all the time, there are many roles that don’t require such a strict, traditional 9-5 structure. Workers caring for aging or sick parents may not be able to predict when and where their care will be needed.

Unlike with childcare which is understood to be ongoing and always needed, aging parent’s health may wax and wane. This unpredictability means that these employees need flexibility in their schedules wherever possible.

Business owners should be open to these workers completing tasks from home or during non-traditional hours.

De-stigmatizing Care-giving

For many workers who care for aging parents, they often suffer in silence.

As the article, “Managing Family Dynamics: Help for Caregivers” points out, caregiving can get particularly difficult and emotionally charged when other siblings are involved.

For all of these reasons, employees may be reluctant to talk to their employers about their home situation.

It’s the job of business owners and managers to lead by example and break down the stigma surrounding eldercare.

This means listening and being actively understanding when employees do open up about caregiving responsibilities.

Support Programs

Beyond communication, employers can support their workers dealing with aging parents through more concrete programs.

While most companies do not offer paid leave, there are a number of forward-thinking businesses that are choosing to provide resources like emotional counseling and social workers who can help with adult daycare referrals.

Caring for aging parents and sick family members is a difficult task for any person, employed or otherwise.

But business owners can assist their employees during this trying time by offering communication, flexibility, and healthcare services.

About the Author: Kristin Livingstone writes on a variety of topics including small business, family, and caregiving.