America is getting older. By 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans 65 and older will increase to 55 million. By 2030, to 70 million. You get the idea.
Americans – both men and women – are also living longer. Put the two together – an aging population that’s generally living longer – and an obvious question starts to emerge: What is America going to do about the growing need for senior care?
Right now, the bulk of the burden rests on families. To offset rising healthcare and senior care costs, millions of Americans have to care for an aging parent or family member themselves. Often, this is to the detriment of their financial, emotional, and physical wellbeing. And to their careers. They’re taking time off, leaving early, coming in late, or quitting work entirely to take care of dads and moms, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and in-laws. This is especially true for the middle-aged, millions of whom are “sandwiched” between caring for their aging parents and raising young children and/or financially supporting older ones.
The need for senior caregiving will continue to increase. And America’s care infrastructure is fragmented at best. As more and more families struggle to navigate the confusing senior care landscape, companies have an opportunity to play an important leadership—and societal—role.
By offering senior care benefits, employers can alleviate some of the caregiving pressure felt by employees. Because senior care is such a personalized experience, employers should make sure that every employee knows that the benefits are there to support them. Here are some of the ways employees can leverage these consultative senior care benefits to make navigating this complex landscape less stressful.
- Planning for and navigating care & local provider referrals
You’re home for the holidays and you notice that mom is having trouble doing the things she used to do with ease. You have the realization: it’s time to get her some help. Except, how and where do you start?! How do you quarterback care decisions when you’re back at work, in your own city, two time zones away? This decision is typically daunting, emotional, and confusing. By having access to Master’s level social workers, employees have somewhere to turn. These compassionate experts can help employees make sense of their caregiving options, better understand complex information on things like payer sources, and get in-depth information on the quality of care providers tailored to their family’s specific needs. According to a recent study by the Harvard Business School, 40% of workers between the ages of 18-25 years old said they needed more support for caregiver referral services. By knowing a trusted expert is “on their team” for support and guidance gives employees peace of mind. It’s important to know that the Care@Work senior care program does not accept referral fees or placement fees when identifying care options for your employees' loved ones.
- Helping a parent who doesn’t want help
It’s common for seniors to resist caregiving help when the signs start to suggest otherwise. At the end of the day, people just want their independence and autonomy – even if we have the best intentions for our loved ones. For many seniors, talking about getting older and needing assistance can feel like a loss of independence and control, make them feel scared, and depressed. Chances are they may not want to talk about things like end-of-life care, money, or their health. Or, they might bristle at the thought of having a “stranger” in their house helping out. The guidance of a trained social worker can make having these difficult conversations easier and more productive.
- Coping with the stress of it all
Taking on senior care is draining. For many families, it’s a new, emotionally charged experience, and they don’t quite know what to expect. Questions lead to more questions. Worries lead to more worries. It interferes with life, relationships, and work. That’s why it’s important that families have access to the right resources, education, and support – not just for their loved one but also for themselves. Forming a caregiving support team, talking things out at workplace employee support groups, and practicing self-care are just some of the ways to curb the stress and manage it all.
- Understanding caregiver options and how to pay for them
Senior care needs are individual. And expensive. The average cost of in-home senior care can vary from $15 per hour to upwards of $500 per day depending on the location of care and level of care needed, according to a 2018 survey by Genworth Financial. Depending on the type of room, nursing homes cost anywhere between $89,000 to more than $100,000 annually. And most people are surprised to find out that Medicare is not going to pay for this long-term care. Senior care benefits give employees and their families access to experts who can break down the cost of care; help them navigate the care landscape and payer sources like Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Benefits; and develop a viable plan that fits their situation and budget.
- Relocating a family member
The decision to move an aging parent or elder family member to an assisted living community nursing home, or even your own home is a weighty one. Sometimes, the move has to be coordinated from several states away. That makes the assistance and expertise of a Master’s level social worker invaluable. They can help ease the myriad logistical challenges of coordinating moving a loved one out of their current living situation and into a new one – no matter where they are.
- Education on Alzheimer’s, dementia, and disease-specific care
The older and longer we live, the more our physical and mental health tends to decline. Senior care and health care go hand-in-hand. So when a loved one is diagnosed with a disease, it’s important to understand and start managing a diagnosis as soon as possible. Consider one of the most debilitating diseases affecting seniors: Alzheimer’s. Today, 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and by 2050 that number is expected to more than double, to 14 million. There are also more than 16 million Americans providing unpaid care for people living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Understanding the hidden costs of Alzheimer’s – including the financial pressure of out-of-pocket caregiving expenses, and the emotional and physical tolls of the disease – is invaluable. Knowledge motivates and empowers. It can relieve stress and refocus families on what matters most: keeping a human connection with their loved one.
- Making home a safe place
Overwhelmingly, older Americans prefer to stay in their own homes and communities as they age. Nearly 90 percent of adults 65 or older say they’d rather grow old at home than in an assisted living facility or nursing home. But aging in place eventually means making modifications. Installing ramps, widening doorways, and walk-in bathtubs are just some of the changes that may need to be made at home to ensure a loved one’s safety and comfort.
- Involving family members to share in caregiving
Senior care takes a village. For example, if dad starts to need some help since mom died, all the siblings have to be on the same page before the family agrees on a caregiving solution. But anyone in a family knows: consensus rarely comes easily! With senior care planning help, employees can have help facilitating family conversations and stay focused on successfully planning and implementing care. This helps keep intra-family conflict to a minimum. And it can create stronger families, too.
With support from their employers, employees can receive much-needed guidance in planning for and managing the care of an aging or ill parent, grandparent, or loved one. Companies that invest in this important employee benefit not only see happier, healthier, more productive employees. They also see a happier, healthier bottom line.