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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Balancing Caregiving and Work

People are living long and working longer; as a society we are seeing possibly the largest portion of the workforce in our nation's history who are both still at work during their later years and caring for a parent, sibling, or other older relative. Our family lost one of our dear neighbors this week after a long health struggle related to his age; and we see family members reaching that age where they need more from us.  In HR we see more and more of these types of situations showing up at work every year.

Aging isn't the only issue driving care giving among the workforce.  Medical science has saved many lives, but those are often lives lived thereafter with a disability of some sort.  From combat to car wrecks, more people who would have died a generation ago survive but require care.  Coincide that with the two-job couples that didn't exist in our grandparents time and the result is that no matter who in the household ends up as the caregiver, they will usually have to balance work and these new responsibilities outside of work.

Care giving often results in two separate phenomena for the caregiver: burden and stress.  These are two very different issues.  Burden is the work load that results from the care needed by the family member.  Stress results from worry and frustration associated with being unsure of how to give care, what kind of care to give, not being able to keep up with everything both at home and at work, and from watching loved one deteriorate.  There can also be disagreement between generations as to the need for Assisted Living vs. remaining at home.

Both burden and stress can be relieved by the professional development of a Care Plan. These are often done by Geriatric Care Managers and Geriatric Social Workers.   While often employed by assisted living communities and organizations, a quick search on the Internet can provide a list of local resources that can be hired privately.  These professionals can assess your loved ones needs, make recommendations as to home-health vs. community and/or clinical settings, and even broker discussions to relieve conflicts in the family over the care needed.

By seeking professional help in assessing your loved ones needs, caregivers can feel confident in their decisions. Such care plans can and should include back-up caregivers such as home health professionals to give the family caregiver a break.  Reducing your overall stress and fatigue helps work performance, which in turn reduces work stress.

The job of care giving is too large to try and figure out on your own.  Seek professional advice and achieve the maximum peace of mind and time away from care that your situation will allow.   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Employee Benefits and Same-Sex Couples

The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments over California's Proposition 8 banning Same-Sex Marriage, and then will immediately turn its attention to a challenge to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  That law prohibits same-sex couples from receiving the same federal tax and other benefit considerations as traditionally married couples.

For benefits administrators this is severely needed.  I have in my region states where same-sex marriage is legal.  In those states those employees with same-sex partners must be allowed to elect benefits for them under a group health plan.  However DOMA, prohibiting any favorable tax consideration to such couples, denies the employee the pre-tax benefits status of the heterosexual married couples. 

The result of this inconsistency between state and federal law is that the benefits administrators and payroll processors must process deductions and remit payments under the same plan two different ways.

Regardless of how you feel on the marriage issue, the Court needs to align state and federal law so that all similarly situated employees are treated the same under the employer's pre-tax plan.  I know that may make too much sense for our legislators both state and federal, but hey, I can dream.