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Employees Seek Confidentiality and Higher Priority With Caregiving

March 20, 2001
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Contrary to popular belief, caregivingisn't confined to elder care, although it may be in the most severe instances.With elder care, employees are most-often expecting it.

    In other instances - particularly withyounger employees - caregivers are surprised by the need for sudden care - suchas a spouse or child having an accident.

    Those employees often do not have theresources as those on the top of the ladder; hence, the employers shouldunderstand the financial and emotional burden of the lower employees.

    There are 50 million families involvedin caregiving, according to Billy Shalley, vice president of Richmond ofVirginia-based FamilyCare America, a resource that provides confidentialcaregiving for employees.

    "One of the important things thatwe offer is organization plans, locating resources through our 'personal care'Web site," Shalley said.

    Outside resources help ensure a highlevel of confidentiality for employees.

    "We rely on the EAP program, butwe make sure that the program is completely outsourced. We did that to ensurethat our employees know that they are not dealing with anybody from AMF,"said Michelle Cletg, director of compensation and benefits for Richmond,Virginia-based AMF Bowling, Inc.

    AMF Bowling, Inc, which manages 400bowling alleys worldwide and three manufacturing sites, set up a company site onthe FamilyCare America Web site in December 2000, which serves as an extensionof the Employee Assistance Program. The site allows employees of AMF to accessresources on Web from anywhere in the country. Among the features offered arehealth sources, social work help, and information on illnesses - how it worksand what to expect.

    One of the best features for Cletg'semployees has been a personal care file, where all the information about apatient is kept for family members. For example, a personal journal can includewhich types of medicine and treatment are needed. A brother in California canaccess the information via a secret password, and his sister in New York can seethe same information. All the activities are logged and used for reference lateron. Furthermore, the information is completely confidential and AMF has no wayof going to check up on employees.

    "This helps ensure our employeesthat other assistance programs are confidential as well," Cletg said. Onmany occasions AMF employees have mentioned to Cletg how useful this service hasbeen.

    The average time for caregiving is 5-6years - a long-term commitment, Shalley said. Employers need to recognize thosewho are targeted and to insure confidentiality. Caregiving resources may benefitemployers through increasing motivation and productivity of employees, whichcuts directly into financial paybacks.

    "Employers don't recognize that itcosts $1,100 to $1,200 for employees per year for absences, coming in late, orleaving early," said Ron Moore, CEO of FamilyCare. "Employees may alsobe on the job and yet not be fully engaged." Moore says that in a 1997study Pfizer found that "any funds spent by the employer in helping withcaregiving have a payback to the employer of 2.5 to five times the cost."

    For Beverly Montsinger, a caregiver andmarketing coordinator for AMF, Inc., the most important aspect is to have morepersonal days off, especially if an emergency occurs. "Our company providesfor six personal days and in some instances we need more than that."Montsinger would like to have more authorized personal days in instances whereher 81-year-old father has to go in for unexpected treatment.

    Online caregiving services are useful,but some employees would like to have more "hands on" help and notjust Web assistance. "I would like to see more services that bring peopleto your house and sit with the sick person while you go grocery shopping, orneed help taking the patient to the hospital," Montsinger said.

    Among other services that could beoffered are support groups, Montsinger said. "Employers should understandthe emotional aspects involved - including isolation, stress, love, anxiety,compassion and burn out that are involved when someone is a caregiver.

    "I'm not saying that the companiesare not doing anything but it would be a courtesy to the baby boomers, who havea higher number of people needing employer support. It should at least be a highpriority."

    With 50 million families involved incaregiving, it's a good bet one of your employees is, or will be. Some things toremember:

  • Not confined to eldercare. Caregiving isn't confined to elder care. Other instances involve the unexpected, such as a severe accident to a spouse or child.

  • Bottom-line issue. It costs money for employees who come in late or leave early. There is a 2.5 to five times payback for any funds spent by the employer in helping with caregiving.

  • Confidentiality is most important. Some employees fear stigma. Limit having to talk within the company.

  • Web assistance is one method. Look into online-caregiving services or creating one from within your own company. Such services are fast and quick to update.

  • Flexible schedules help. Offer flexible schedules and more authorized personal days off for emergency situations or unexpected treatment.

  • Support groups are needed. Form support groups to have caregivers cope with problems beyond the physical demands, including stress and depression.

  • Employees want more hands-on services. Online caregiving services are useful, but some employees would like to have more "hands on" help and not just Web assistance.

  • Caregiving should be high priority. Consider offering caregiving as a part of company benefits.

The information contained in thisarticle is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.

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