Would you believe that one in six Americans today finds himself in a position where he has to take care of another adult? Doing so often comes at a heavy personal cost - elderly caregivers have less time and money for their spouse and children and one is less able to concentrate on work and get ahead.
As wonderful as it is that medical science makes it possible for the average American to live to be 80 or more, medical science often makes life extended in this way quite difficult to take. Things are beginning to change a little bit now though; and the push for change comes from our employers.
Even 10 years ago, at a time when everyone thought that we were pretty far advanced in worker rights just because we had paternity leave for new fathers (just the way mothers have maternity leave). No one had ever heard of corporate benefits that granted elderly caregivers any time off or ones that provided caregiving referrals.
Believe it or not, one out of ten corporations in America now provides these. And that's a figure that's only set to rise.
To someone who is in charge of taking care of an elderly relative, one of the most important allowances they could receive for work is perhaps permission to telecommute.
When there are emergencies or when one happens to be in a situation where a parent just needs someone to be around all the time, being granted telecommuting privileges or flex time can be the greatest thing. 20% of America's companies believe that they plan to offer far more options to do with flex time in the near future.
Three out of four elderly caregivers report that they've had to quit working or change to a less demanding job to be able to provide an aging family member the kind of care they deserved.
Half of all elderly caregivers report that their family incomes are 15% lower than they would otherwise have been; and that they often lost a chance at a promotion because of the position they found themselves in.
To a country that's long been reconciled to giving up a career to be able to take care of an aging parent, such corporate empathy can be truly welcome.
Most of these options typically exist only for long-term employees who have a great relationship with their companies. Employees who work at skilled jobs that require competence and qualifications often find that their companies are willing to deal with them in these matters too.
Corporations like Intel, Deloitte, Price Waterhouse Coopers and IBM offer comprehensive eldercare benefits - which is the industry term for these benefits offered to employees.