Formal Elder Care Programs Not In Most Business’ Future

AUGUST 7, 1995 VOLUME 3, NUMBER 6

When shoemaker Stride Rite, in 1971, became one of the first corporations to offer a sponsored day care program for employees’ children, it was hailed as a futuristic move. Now such programs are fairly common in many industries.

Almost twenty years later, Stride Rite became a leader once again with a program to provide adult day care for employees’ parents and other family members. The move was once again seen as forward-looking and the wave of the future. Now it looks like the future is not shaping up as expected.

This fall Stride Rite will move its corporate offices from Cambridge to Lexington, Mass. When it moves, it will not be recreating the five year old adult day care program.

The company cites low enrollment in explaining its decision not continue the elder care program. In an article in last weeks Wall Street Journal, Stride Rite executives and other experts are quoted as indicating that the anticipated use of elder care programs simply has not materialized, and that employees have consistently demonstrated a preference for other types of assistance with care of elderly relatives.

No one questions the significance of the problem. The costs to employers when staff members must provide care for family members are well-documented and substantial. It turns out that the solutions are probably not in day care programs but in alternative work structures.

Experts list these consistent elements of successful elder care programs run by employers:

  1. Flexible scheduling for employees who need to be available in emergencies.
  2. Resource (information and referral) services available to employees.
  3. Elder-care seminars and other mechanisms to provide information and planning options for employees about to face increased demands for care.
  4. Long-term care insurance options for employees and family members (including, in some instances, parents).
  5. Strong organizational support for caretaking employees and their need for information.
  6. Involvement with community advocacy and care-giving groups.

One example of these strategies in the local market: Hughes Missile Systems Company has provided informative seminars and information-and-referral services to employees for many years. While it is difficult to quantify the financial reward to Hughes from this program, the company believes it has a significant positive effect and is committed to continued support.

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