Who Needs Eldercare Employee Assistance Programs? By Judith Uthus With a predominately suburban workforce, San Fernando Valley companies are well acquainted with family leave issues and the workplace, accommodating employees who have a demanding life outside their work. Employers learned last decade with the passing of the Family and Medical Leave Act that their policies on family issues such as maternity leave, family medical leave and day care are as important to employees as how much they pay. This decade, aging parent care is predicted to become the primary family leave issue. Today, there are four workers for every retiree on Social Security. According to a recent federal government report, that number will eventually drop to two. Who’s going to be physically taking care of the aging population? It’s likely to be your employees. Government agencies and professors associated with departments of aging at California universities are compiling data to project what effect our aging society will have on the workplace. Statistics indicate that companies can expect to lose up to $3,000 a year per employee who will become a caregiver at some capacity. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, companies are already affected by employees contending with dependent parents. Thirty percent of employees currently in the national workforce are caregivers in some capacity. This number is expected to increase to 54 percent by 2010. Women, who are a large segment of the labor pool, are predicted to put themselves in the role of the main caregiver while also balancing their immediate family needs with jobs. The Valley has an abundance of eldercare professionals and specialists who can educate and assist the business community in local eldercare services and options: independent and assisted living, referral services, home health care, intergenerational programs, social workers, case managers, counselors, attorneys and physicians. Employers who set policies that support rather than threaten employees in balancing their eldercare demands with job demands will be doing more than improving company morale. They will be helping to eliminate the chasm America has created among its generations. Becoming old in a youthful society is difficult enough. Elders should not be made to feel that they cannot come to their busy children because of the demands placed on them at work. Each passing generation should be considered a member of society at any age, having done their job by contributing to the labor force, creating doors of opportunity and defending democracy. French philosopher Joseph Joubert wrote, “Life is a country that the old have seen and lived in. Those who have to travel through it can only learn from them.” Employers’ timeclocks should be sensitive to and in synch with that of Father Time. Judith Uthus is community relations director for West Hills Retirement Center.