Tuesday, May 31, 2016
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Published: Friday, 7/23/2004

The 'sandwich' generation

BABY boomers are often labeled the "sandwich generation," and for good reason. Many are caregivers both for their children and their aging parents. Most employers have made adjustments to accommodate a generation of two-career families where parenting responsibilities are equally shared. Now it is time to recognize that elder care is an issue as well.

Thanks to modern medicine, the fastest-growing segment of the population is over age 85, and surely some of those seniors rely on their children who work. The Society for Human Resource Management says more than 90 percent of the firms it surveyed expect more workers have the duty of looking after their elderly parents.

Employee programs such as flex time help working parents deal with child-care issues. But members of the sandwich generation who work also need flex time to provide elder care.

As companies offer such a benefit, they must bear in mind that one solution doesn't fit every family. Elderly parents' needs vary. Some are independent and require occasional help; others require regular or round-the-clock care.

State government can help, too, as participants at the recent National Governors Association conference in Seattle were told, and communities must consider making shopping, social services, and transportation "elder-ready," or easily accessible to senior citizens.

Plus, while this may not seem to be important in the overall scheme of things, streamlining paperwork so elderly hospital patients can go right to home-based care instead of nursing homes would be beneficial, too. Efforts should also be made to broaden tax deductions or tax credits for caregivers' expenses.

Few in their golden years can hire someone to look after their needs, so loved ones do the job. But no matter how much adult children love their parents, the task is often burdensome and emotionally draining.

Employers who are flexible and help workers meet their aging parents' needs will find that they do their jobs better.

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