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Will We Soon See Workplaces With On-Site Elder Care?

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Next Avenue Blogger
Next Avenue Blogger

Part of the Transforming Life as We Age Special Report

Your boss asks you to work late to finish a project. In years past, this wasn’t a problem — you stayed to help out. But now your 84-year-old father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, has moved in with you. He needs help preparing dinner and managing his medications. He’s not safe on his own. What do you do?

It’s a hypothetical question recently posed by Kathy Kelly of the Family Caregiver Alliance to illustrate the challenges facing caregivers. Now a CEO of a major corporation has proposed an innovative real-life solution.

Take Your Parent to Work Day?

You’ve heard of on-site childcare, something about 7 percent of companies offer. (In 2012, about a third of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For had it.) Then, of course, there are companies like Google, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar and Amazon that let you bring your dog to work.

But what about the 42 percent of working Americans — more than 54 million people — who have provided eldercare in the last five years? What about the 24 million Americans — almost half our country’s 40- and 50-year-olds — who are part of the “Sandwich Generation” that’s simultaneously caring not only for an older parent or adult but also their own children?

Thomas DeRosa, the CEO of Welltower, a $24 billion real estate trust that invests in housing and assisted-living properties for older people, shared his big idea at this year’s World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, during a panel discussion called “What If You Are Still Alive in 2100?”

A Toll on Workers and Employers

DeRosa predicted that major corporations could soon allow employees to bring elderly parents or family members to a workplace-based elder daycare system.

“If you think about a business where most of the employees are my age,” DeRosa, who’s in his late 50s, said to Business Insider, “think about the [problem] people who are faced with: ‘I can’t afford $8,000 a month [for elder care], my mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I’m the eldest son or daughter who lives within proximity.’ You have to leave your job. [Caregiving is] a 24/7 job.”

Indeed, the issue comes at a real cost to employers, too. Work disruptions due to employee caregiving responsibilities result in productivity losses to businesses at an estimated cost of $33.6 billion per year.

“Think about the productivity improvement of not losing these skilled employees,” DeRosa said.

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