Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Population Isn't getting any younger

Or healthier. The odds are that we aren't going to be be as old or suffer lingering diseases as our parents. Not that we will notice as we sit drooling in our chairs waiting for the next round of medications.
As Parents Age, Baby Boomers and Business Struggle to Cope - New York Times: "A $20-an-hour aide, on an eight-hour shift, would otherwise cost a Prudential employee $160, rather than $32. Yet the company says it will save $650,000 during a three-year contract with Work Options, Ms. Corcoran said, because 'if our employees needs are taken care of, they can focus on work.'

Diane Yankencheck, a Prudential employee in Newark, said the service kept her working during a crisis. Her father has a degenerative neurological disease and round-the-clock care. Her mother manages the household, or did until she broke her wrist. Now an aide from Work Options cooks, cleans and helps her bathe and dress.

Kent Burtis, a Verizon technician in Bayville, N.J., uses similar backup care for his father, who is paralyzed and incontinent. For a while, Mr. Burtis spent hours before work feeding, diapering and dressing him. Now an aide does the morning shift. 'It's kept me from slitting my throat,' Mr. Burtis said.

Elder care benefits most often seem a luxury at small companies and nonprofits. So even at AARP, dedicated to the needs of older Americans, Deborah Russell, the director of work force issues, was daunted by coordinating long-distance care for her mother and then missing weeks of work to be at her bedside when death neared.

Ms. Russell and her two sisters, grateful for AARP's excellent referral service, still spent 'an inordinate amount of time on the telephone' during working hours, distracted and unproductive. As their mother's condition deteriorated, and the siblings rotated weeks in Florida, Ms. Russell used paid vacation time rather than the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the federal Family Medical Leave Act or AARP's more generous 16-week program, also unpaid.

Another benefit assumed to be useful is the flexible spending account, governed by the Internal Revenue Service and widely offered by companies. It permits the use of pretax dollars for dependent care, as long as the dependent meets the I.R.S. definition. Virtually all children do, but most aged parents do not. That means tax breaks for baby sitters but not companions for the elderly.

Experts disagree about whether women will push employers for help with their parents, as they did 30 years ago when child care was their pressing issue.
Men have parents that they care about also, that is a very arrogant statement.
Ellen Galinsky, 63, president of the Family and Work Institute, led the charge for a day care center at Bank Street College when she was a researcher there in 1969. After "huge resistance," the center opened in 1974. Ms. Galinsky predicts a similar awakening to elder care issues because "demographics are destiny."

"Everyone I know is dealing with this," said Ms. Galinsky, who recently stayed at the bedside of her 98-year-old mother for the last two months of her life. The institute allows unlimited sick leave for such family emergencies. But even with that leeway, Ms. Galinsky said: "I was on another planet. It's like no other experience. I barely have words for how hard it is."
No pensions, for parents or children, no savings once the parent is gone, no realistic plan to deal for an aging population (not a surprise!) What are childless couples going to do? Or the ones who have children who don't care?

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