Balancing work, aging parents an issue for boomers

By: CBC News
September 22, 2006

Many baby boomers are facing a difficult challenge: juggling work with caring for aging, sometimes ailing, parents.

As seniors become a greater proportion of the population, there will be added pressure to spend time and money on them, says Satya Brink a gerontologist at Simon Fraser University.

“We need to be fair in the distribution of both of these if we want to have quality of life between generations,” she said.

Statistics Canada says two million Canadians — mostly women over 45 — are caring for older relatives.

Many employees want to keep working, which will benefit employers facing labour shortages. But companies that want to keep valuable workers will have to do more to keep them, analysts say.

Many employers lose good employees because they don’t take the demands of elder care seriously, said Jill O’Donnell, who heads the Toronto consulting firm Complete Geriatric Care.

That happened to the hotel where Rick Handspiker was food manager. He got the job after moving to Ottawa from British Columbia to care for his aging parents, but couldn’t manage the conflicts.

“I wasn’t able to perform my tasks to my own liking, so I gave my notice and left the hotel.”

Greg Conner, now head of human resources at an information technology services company, was working at Camosun College in Victoria several years ago when the college faced a problem: a third of the employees were eligible to retire within five years, and those nearing retirement often wanted time off to care for their parents.

Making the work schedules more flexible helped keep employees who otherwise would have left. “I think when you can accommodate them, you can have a productive, engaged worker,” he said.

The government has made it a bit easier for people taking care of an older relative. Employment insurance rules now offer limited financial relief for employees who take time off to care for older relatives.

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