Cona Elder Law


TAWC: Tools and Advice for Working Caregivers

In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s examine the role of women as elder caregivers, and particularly working women who shoulder the bulk of this unpaid care.

The average elder caregiver in the United States is a 49 year old woman who works outside the home in addition to spending almost 20 hours per week providing care to an aging loved one. Women caring for ill, elderly or disabled loved ones must address such issues as a loved one’s hospitalization, coordinating elder care services, and handling emergency elder caregiving responsibilities.  This may result in personal phone calls on the job, use and abuse of leave time, work hour adjustments, missed deadlines, poor work quality, sporadic attendance, and prolonged or frequent disappearances from workstations.  “Presenteeism” is also an issue, that is, the caregiver may be physically present at their day job, but is mentally somewhere else.

When work conflicts with elder caregiving, employees choose to make changes in their work life.  Approximately 68% of elder caregivers report making work accommodations, including arriving late/leaving early, taking time off, cutting back on work hours, changing jobs, or stopping work altogether. Businesses are impacted by decreased productivity, absenteeism, downtime and turnover.  The growing demographic problem is two-fold:  the elderly are living longer and people are working longer/retiring later.  This combination results in a workforce that is struggling to maintain jobs while providing care for aging parents and loved ones.

It is helpful to realize that in many instances, the elder caregiver becomes the healthcare decision maker, the bookkeeper, the accountant, the chauffeur, the housekeeper/cook and the secretary to the aging or disabled loved one.  It is impossible to wear all of these hats and wear them well, especially when someone is juggling their job and their own family matters.  The confusion between Medicare, Medicaid and Medigap insurance can be extremely overwhelming, as can the difference between Community Medicaid and Institutional Medicaid.  Many elder caregivers struggle with decisions regarding taking care of their loved one at home, in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home.  Asset protection and the appropriate way to handle financial matters leaves many people in a dire state of confusion.  When individuals are made aware of the healthcare choices, government benefits programs, and the legal and financial options available, they can more easily navigate the elder care landscape, get their loved one the care and assistance they need, and keep their focus on their job.

Bringing outside professionals into the workplace, like the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Cona Elder Law, to educate employees can be a great benefit to both the staff and to the employer.  Empowering working elder caregivers with knowledge and information to handle an elder care crisis, or to plan ahead to avoid the crisis altogether, promotes job security for the caregiver and protects the employer’s bottom line.

Jennifer B. Cona, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Cona Elder Law, an award-winning law firm concentrating in the areas of elder law, estate planning, special needs planning, estate administration and litigation, and health care law. The firm has been ranked the #1 Elder Law Firm by Long Island Business News for eight consecutive years.  Click HERE for additional information regarding the firm’s FREE elder care employee benefit program TAWC.

About the Author Cona Elder Law

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