Employee benefits evolve and change over time to meet changing demographics and work environments and culture. The demographics for working caregivers of Seniors has changed and will continue to do so, but benefits have not generally followed to track those changes and respond appropriately. There are benefits available, but they are minimal.
In 2002, 23% of Canadians aged 45-64 provided care to seniors. Of this group, 70% were also employed (General Social Survey, 2002).On average, these Canadians provided 23 hours of unpaid care per month (29 hours for women, 16 for men).
By 2007, the number of people aged 45 and over providing assistance and care to a chronically ill senior was 2.7 million, up 670,000 from 2002. (STATSCAN, 2008) If we figure 70% of those were employed, as in 2002, then there were 1,890,000 Canadians over 45 caring for a Senior.
How did caregiving affect the workplace? Over 12 % of employees changed work patterns. Over 13% reported reducing work hours. 3% turned down a job or promotion and 2% stopped working at their paid job altogether, citing the assistance they provided to seniors as the reason (General Social Survey, 2002). There is a cost to busines when caregivers are not supported. In the U.S. businesses lose between $11 billion and $29 billion each year due to employee elder care. These costs break down as:
- Replacing employees who quit – $4.9 billion
- Workday interruptions – $3.7 billion
- Dealing with elder care crises – $1 billion
- Partial absenteeism – $488 million
- Absenteeism – $397 million
- Increased health and mental health costs, leaves of absence, reduced hours of work and more. *
There is clearly a need for Eldercare benefits for employees, yet the number of employers providing such benefits is limited. The available alternatives consist of government benefits such as end of life caregiver leave and indirect support through general extended health plans. Tax and other financial benefits, available to anyone working or not, are also available which can help purchase support and care.
Below are a few of the major options currently used:
Compassionate Care Leave: Under BC Employment Standards, a family caregiver may take up to eight weeks off to care for a family member. However, that is only effective when a medical practitioner has signed a certificate saying that death of that family member is expected within 26 weeks. If the family member does not die, the certificate may be renewed, for another 26 weeks. For more information on Compassionate Care Leave, click here.
Extended Health Benefits: Employees covered by extended health may find that this entitles them to the services of a Registered Social Worker, Psychologist, Nurse, Occupational Therapist, or Physiotherapist. Using this benefit, they could obtain an assessment, receive some care planning, have counselling or mediation, and receive advice about a range of eldercare issues. Diamond Geriatrics often provides services to family members under this benefit. If the Caregiver is in the room with the Senior, our assessments of the Senior are covered.
Employee Assistance Programmes: Employee Assistance Programmes are short term intervention options, providing employees with from one to eight sessions with a counsellor. If you have an EAP, ask specifically for a therapist experienced in Eldercare who knows the care system in your area. Once you are given a name, interview the counsellor first to make sure they can answer your questions.
Work Life Benefits: Work life benefits are usually provided through an outside provider company. They are generally limited to providing employees with information about available resources.
General sources of help, available to all, include:
Tax and financial incentives: There are several options for helping Caregivers financially ; these may be used to purchase services that otherwise could not be afforded, and allow working caregivers some support.Consult your accountant for details of the criteria of these options. They include:
Homeowner Tax Deferment: This BC programme allows people 55 and over, or who are a surviving spouse, or person with a disability, to defer the taxes on their home until the home is sold.For more information, click here.
Caregiver Tax Credit: Available to Caregivers who share their home with the person they are caring for, if that person’s income is below a certain amount, along with a few additional criteria. For more information, click here.
Attendant Care or Care in a Nursing Home Deductions: Caregivers can deduct for fees paid to a range of attendants and support personnel, both professional and non professional, who are caring for a Senior. Diamond Geriatrics services may be covered under this programme. Expenses can also be claimed for Nursing Homes and other senors housing facilities. For more information, click here.
Other sources which can be utilized by working (and non working) caregivers include:
Provincial Health Authority: Support from provincial health authorities include housing, Adult Day Care programmes where people spent the day in a supervised setting for up to three days per week, Respite Care (where an older person can go into care for up to four weeks per year), personal care, and medication management. These benefits are based on need as defined by assessments done by case managers. To contact your health authority about these programmes, click here.
Veterans Benefits: Through the Veterans Independence Programmes, some veterans are eligible for practical care around the home, personal care, transportation, professional support, and subsidies for Seniors Housing. For more information, click here.
Eldercare benefits will become standard only when employees and unions make a concerted effort to have employers include them in benefit packages. A recent study showed that 16% of caregivers want employers to provide those benefits (NAPGM, 2008).Employers need to understand that caregiver benefits are beneficial to the company bottom line, as well as to employees. Results from family caregiver programs show:
- Increased retention of highest performers from 77% to 91%.
- Reduction of absences, decreased benefit claims and improved productivity.
- Improved profitability by decreasing turnover, lateness and absenteeism.
- Enhancing the companies image.*
To read more about the impact and effectiveness of corporate eldercare programmes, read the 2008 National Alliance for Caregiving report summary.
*Central Plains Area Agency on Aging, 2005
New Services from Diamond Geriatrics
“The Picture of Health”
Diamond Geriatrics is pleased to announce the launch of “The Picture of Health,” an in-home assessment carried out by a team of professionals from the fields of medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, pharmacy, and mental health/social work. “The Picture of Health” will produce a written report documenting all concerns regarding the client, and will be legally valid as a capability assessment regarding the client’s ability to manage their personal and financial affairs. “The Picture of Health” will be an invaluable tool to help family members, seniors, lawyers, doctors, financial planners to plan for the future. To learn more, click here.
Differing views on an elderly relative can lead to bitterness and breakdowns in family relationships, often ending up in an expensive legal process. One way to avoid that is to use Elder Mediation. Elder Mediators are professionals who have training and knowledge in both aging and mediation. It can have similarities to counselling, but focuses more on outcome. Click here to learn about Elder Mediation from Diamond Geriatrics.