Here’s what one state is doing to help workers caring for elderly parents

What happens when you need to take care of your parents and elders on top of doing your job? According to the AARP, 42% of U.S. workers have provided care for an aging relative or friend in the past five years, and about half of the workforce expects to
be providing eldercare in the coming five years.

In December, Hawaii became the first U.S. state to launch a direct subsidy program aimed at lifting the burden of long-term care on employees. The state’s new Kupuna Caregivers Program will give Hawaii’s caregivers who work at least 30 hours a week up to $70 per day in services to cover the cost of caregiving responsibilities for aging adults like hiring help, paying for transportation, and getting home-delivered meals. (Kupuna means elder in Hawaiian.)

“We are hopeful that this program will provide working caregivers with the opportunity to continue working and with peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are safe and are receiving services and supports that maximize their independence and quality of life,” Terri Byers, director of the Hawaii Executive Office on Aging, said in a statement.

Since Hawaii is the state with the longest life expectancy, it makes sense that it would be the state pioneer in helping its aging citizens. There are other states that could soon follow its lead. Washington is expected to reintroduce a bill that would give Washingtonians $100 a day to support caregiving situations like nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Meanwhile, the grassroots organization Maine’s People Alliance is currently campaigning for universal homecare services for its seniors and citizens with disabilities.

The cost of elderly caregiving on the workplace

Research has found that caring for our elders is not just an individual’s burden — it can easily become a workplace problem.

When we need to make sure our older parent gets to that appointment, it’s an unpaid part-time job that can distract us from doing our paid one. The AARP Public Policy Institute found that the average U.S. caregiver is spending almost 20 hours per week providing unpaid care. Those hours can add up to lost productivity and wages.

According to a 2012 study from AARP, nearly seven in 10 employees report having to take time off, cut back on working hours, change jobs, or stop working entirely to accommodate taking care of an elderly adult. And when employees have to stop working, they can lose up to six figures in wages. AARP found that employees who had to leave the workforce to take care of an elderly parent could lose up to $304,000 in lost wages and benefits.

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