The big HR issue everyone’s ignoring

It’s the aging elephant in the room – says one industry expert – but more employers need to start addressing it now.

In recent years, we’ve been bombarded with facts and figures on ‘the aging population’ but has HR really done anything to address it? One industry professional says employers are underestimating the danger of what’s right in front of them – and they’re going to start feeling the effects very soon.

Ignoring the obvious

“The demographics are slapping people in the face,” says Karen Henderson, founder of the Long Term Care Planning Network.  “We can no longer ignore the fact that, in Canada, we now have more people over 65 than under 14.”

The struggling and already-stretched health care system will only be able to offer minimal help, warns Henderson, and many Canadians will be forced to look after their aging parents and relatives if real plans aren’t put into place.

Knock-on effect

“Anyone who is a family caregiver is under huge stress and when you’re at work and you have an ill parent or someone in a care facility or hospital, your mind is not at work – your mind is on them,” Henderson told HRM.

“You’re using the phone, you’re researching, you’re trying to find answers, your stress levels are huge and you’re not productive as a result,” she stresses. “Employers who do not recognize this issue will see their employees between 50 and 65 losing tremendous productivity as well as their own health. (Continued...) #pb#

“They’re going to be absent from work, they’re going to ask for leaves of absence, they’re going to quit and we all know that it costs more to hire and retrain then it does to keep a current employee,” she added.

Employer action

HR might not be able to do much about the aging population but organizations can bolster support for those who are affected.

“Organizations should be offering long-term care insurance as part of an employee benefit package,” urges Henderson. “Only the federal government and one union in this country currently offer it – no other organizations.”

Even employers that can’t afford to bulk up benefits still have an array of affordable options at their fingertips, says Henderson, including:
  • Lunch and learn educational sessions
  • Create libraries where employees can access on and offline materials
  • Create a hotline to homecare companies to hire emergency care
  • Create flex time policies
  • Allow people to work from home
  • Create space to allow older people to come in – elder space
“There are so many things employers can do but the most important thing they can do is open up communications with employees through newsletters, through emails, through meetings to say ‘we know it’s happening - come to us and tell us what your problems are – do not hide your problems – talk to us, ask for help and we will do whatever we can to help you.’”

Right now, that communication is too often not happening,” she adds.
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