When Janet Boling of PacifiCare talks about eldercare benefits, some people think she's speaking to a very small segment of employees - certainly not to them.
"But you never know who's going to be a caregiver," she says. "Maybe you weren't a caregiver last week. But then mom fell and broke her hip, and guess what? You're a caregiver today."
Sometimes the only reason people don't call themselves a caregiver is that they don't see themselves in that role. "People don't recognize themselves as caregivers," says Boling, who is the director of PacifiCare's A Solution for Caregivers program. "They see themselves as just the loving son or daughter, and they're helping out with chores, taking the parent to the doctor, things like that."
However you view it, caregiving is a situation facing a huge portion of your employee population, and it's only going to get bigger. To address the needs of caregivers, PacifiCare created A Solution for Caregivers, which was designed to take a lot of the stress from the shoulders of employees. "It brings in three components," say Boling:
- Expertise in matters related to eldercare
- Research and other "leg work"
- Individualized planning
"The first part of the program is an 800 number," says Boling. "It's staffed by geriatric experts. They listen to your situation and start to understand what you need. Maybe all you need is access to a support group. Maybe you need to find out if there is a transportation service in Lexington, Kentucky, because that's where your parents are, and you're out in California. Or maybe you really don't know what's going on, and you're just downright concerned. In that case, we arrange for a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) who is located in the community where the elder lives, and we do an assessment of the situation.
GCMs are typically nurses, social workers, or Masters in Gerontology. They deal with adult issues all day long. And they are located where the elder is, so they can do a face-to-face assessment of the situation. They know community resources, what's available, and if there are programs on a reduced-fee basis. All this means you can start tapping into a community a whole lot faster than sitting at your desk dialing 800 numbers."
A Solution for Caregivers costs roughly $1.60 to $2 per employee, per month, when you cover your entire employee group. "For every employee, you get six hours of time per year with a GCM. Their fees [would otherwise] usually run around $100 per hour, so it's a huge benefit for the people who are in this situation," says Boling (who can be reached at (714) 825-5634). And for those who aren't, the program can help you plan. "Hopefully we can educate people to do some things in advance of a crisis. We'd like people to see people plan ahead, rather than just be reactionary."
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