Monday, March 27, 2006

Elder care benefits.... are they worth it?

It was with interest that I read about employers offering benefits for employees to help them care for their aging parents. I have two parents over 80 years of age and things are getting tougher and tougher for them on a day-to-day basis to do the basic daily activities of living alone. Together they are able to barely hang in there, gratefully, but should either one of them become incapacitated, the other's needs are obvious. I'd like to help, and I don't think my employer pays for such benefits, so I'm accumulating "vacation days" to help out. But the duration of their needs are likely to exceed my vacation days. Should I expect my employer to fund someone to help my parents? Certainly if I generate tons of money for our hospital system (and the types of procedures I do certainly generate zillions of dollars for the hospital system each year...) but would it be cost-effective for them to supply funds for me to hire folks to help my parents? Or should that be my responsibility? (I think so and expect this). The cost to the patients and insurers will increase if such care is provided... Do we need these extra costs to the health care system? Now I could make them my "dependents" and use a "flexible spending account" to put away dollars, but this takes time, and the needs of my parents are much more likely to occur on an unexpected, urgent basis. Like it or not, this scenario is going to be played out my more and more individuals as the baby boomers hit their 60's and their parents are well into their 80's. Unlike employers providing child care (which has its own psychologic and emotional limits as busy work-a-day mothers drop their kids off a child care each day but occurs at expected times and for known durations) the care of elders is less predictable, but the benefits to their kids of being able to be with them during their final days no less important, regardless of the cost.


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