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Helping sandwich generation workers Featured

10:24am EDT January 30, 2002
The number of older Americans is increasing every year.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, there were 34.5 million people in the United States aged 65 or over in 2000. Even with breakthrough medical technologies, there comes a time when older adults may need extra care or attention.

For a working adult child, caring for aging parents can be stressful. Some may feel their only alternative is to take family leave or quit their jobs. Employers who provide information to the sandwich generation employee, or respite caregiver, can help both the employee and the company by retaining workers.

Lea Blackburn, a licensed social worker and administrative director of Riverside's John J. Gerlach Center for Senior Health, says more communities are offering adult day care.

"For working caregivers, adult day care can work the best," says Blackburn. "At our facility, we offer programs and health care from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m."

The Gerlach Center also provides transportation to and from the facility.

For older adults who wish or need to remain at home, there are many programs to meet their needs and ease the burden on their children.

"Just about every community offers Meals on Wheels," says Blackburn. "And for those that can afford it, there are home health nurses, too."

Home emergency response systems -- personal electronic devices worn around the neck -- can alert caregivers or emergency crews when needed. Homemaker services such as cleaning and cooking are also available.

"There are many people that don't know what is available in the community," says Blackburn. "Franklin County Senior Options is a free program that can fill that need" by putting people in touch with programs including support groups for respite caregivers and counseling.

Or employers can call the Gerlach Center, which provides information and referrals for employees whose parents do not reside in Franklin County.

"We will speak with the adult child and parent," says Blackburn. "And do a phone assessment. Then we link them to the services in their community."

Blackburn recommends families discuss options before the need arises.

"Have a family talk around the dinner table," she says. "Discuss care planning. Advanced directives can be filled out -- it doesn't have to be just for older folks." How to reach: Franklin County Senior Options, 462-6200; John J. Gerlach Center for Senior Health, 566-5858

Additional assistance

Knowing the right questions to ask can make it easier to find the right caregiver.

Those caring for elderly parents while also managing a busy career and lifestyle have many options. To find the best care option, adult children need to ask the right questions.

The Administration on Aging advises asking these questions of a potential caregiver:

* What type of employee screening is done?

* Is the employee paid by the agency or the employer?

* Who supervises the worker?

* What general and specialized training have workers received?

* Whom do you call if the worker doesn't come?

* What are the fees and what do they cover?

* Is there a sliding fee scale?

* What are the minimum and maximum hours of service?

* Are there limitations in terms of tasks performed or times of day when services are furnished?

Source: http://www.aoa.dhhs.gov/aoa/eldractn/caregive.html