Is eldercare the new childcare?

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With the struggling health care system unable to fully support our increasingly aged population, many Canadians are now in an informal care-giving position – but the stress can easily pile up when employees try to juggle family commitments with demanding careers.

Despite the widespread prevalence of people caring for older relatives, ElderCareCanada founder Pat Irwin says employees sometimes don’t receive enough support from their employers.

“Eldercare is where childcare was 25 years ago,’ she told HRM. “It’s not a dirty little secret but it’s something that employees are using subterfuge with.”

Irwin insists employees are increasingly taking sick days in order to care for their aging relatives – something which used to be common when companies were less supportive of childcare needs.

“This has got to come out of the closet,” she stressed. “It’s got to be recognized like so many other things have been recognized – gender equality, working conditions, mental health issues – all kinds are much more out in the open.  This has to come out tin the open too.”

Irwin has compelled employers to tackle the problem head on and prove to employees that they’re supported.

“I would suggest that an employer identifies who the carers in their workplace are and possibly get a forum or focus group of them to find out the most stressful elements,” she revealed.

“Education is critically important too,” she added – from information days and consulting sessions to resource libraries and lunch and learns.

“You might have an information day about childcare, that’s great, about education, that’s great – but more and more we’re going to need them about eldercare,” she stresses.

The eldercare expert also suggests setting up an ambassador program or buddy system, if it’s possible.

“If an employee could be paired with someone who has been through it, that would be a huge comfort to them,’ she suggests. “Sometimes when you’re lonely, scared, worried, or panicked, you just need someone to talk to.”

The upshot of supporting your employee, Irwin says, is increased productivity, improved corporate image and incredible loyalty.

“If you can help your employee put some really sustainable plans in place then you’ve retained her, you’ve retained her skills, the investment you’ve made in her, her intellectual property that she brings with her, her experience and she’d also incredibly loyal to you,” Irwin stresses.

“That is a really powerful gift if you want to give back to society and you want to be a good corporate citizen but also if you want to be one of the best companies – this kind of thing really sets organizations apart."

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