November 10, 2015

The Fight for $15: A home care worker's perspective

Today my guest blogger is Brenda Williams, a Florida home care worker. Brenda works a difficult job and balances it with her home life. Along with other home care workers, she is fighting for higher wages. This is a hot button political issue but one that deserves our attention.


(Brenda Williams and her client Mr. Dukes at his 102nd birthday party)


This election season, I’m thinking about my grandson. I’m looking for a set of leaders that will fight for our families and communities and our ability to care for one another. And for me, and thousands of other home care workers, that means supporting $15 an hour and union rights for low-wage workers everywhere.

In my eight years as a home care worker, I’ve worked miracles to keep families together. I provide daily support services to seniors and people with disabilities that allow them to age with dignity and independence in their homes, surrounded by friends, family and their community. But how can I take care of my loved ones when I’m struggling on low pay?

I am paid $11.50 an hour, and it’s not a fair wage. I live paycheck to paycheck, with one eye constantly on when my next bill is due. It isn’t right that I’m 62 years old, work constantly and am unable to make ends meet. A raise to $15 an hour would mean an opportunity to save for the future, and not just for myself. I moved to Florida 17 years ago to support my grandson, and I dream of being able to put aside savings for him. Home care workers everywhere are wondering how they’ll be able to provide for their families’ futures on low wages.

Sadly, low pay for home care workers has discouraged many from the job. Across the country, the number of seniors in need of home care services has outpaced the number of home care workers available. In Florida, there is one home care worker for every 35 seniors who need care. It’s clear that the system isn’t working for our elderly, it isn’t working for home care workers, and it isn’t working for families. We all deserve better, and we’re demanding that elected leaders stand with our call for change.

I’ve had some of the most remarkable home care clients. The first of them, Mr. Dukes, was a wonderful man and like a grandfather to me. Mr. Dukes had muscular degeneration and impaired vision. Over the years, he’d lost contact with his family and his home was filled with stacks of letters he was unable to read. I began reading the letters and reaching out to relatives and friends who had written them. When Mr. Dukes turned 102, I invited everyone to a birthday party. I told him 13 people would attend and over 50 came, including many long-lost relatives. His alma mater even sent a picture of him from his college years. It was a moving and powerful experience to help my client reconnect with his family and community, and he felt it too. 

Home care workers provide invaluable services to seniors. We help with cooking, bathing, and doctor’s appointments and provide the stability and consistency of care that allows families to stay together and thrive. But too often, low wages mean we can’t cover the basics of food and rent, much less take care of our kids and grandkids the way they deserve. It’s a simple matter of fairness that home care workers should be able to provide for our family members the way we provide for others.

Today, November 10, is one year from the 2016 election. I’m coming together with other home care workers and low-wage workers in the Fight for $15 in our largest nationwide mobilization yet. For too long, our families have been on the line. Now our votes are too. We’re letting candidates know that, whether they’re running for local office or President of the United States, they’ll only get our support if they support $15/hr and union rights.

Home care workers need leaders in office that know what families need. If you stand with us, we’ll stand with you. 

May 09, 2015

Moms who work on Mother's Day


(Molita Cunningham and three of her children)


On Mother's Day, when the most of us mothers are celebrating, some mothers are working.

Molita Cunningham is one of them. She's a 56-year-old home healthcare worker who puts in 12 hour shifts as often as she can get them. Cunningham needs every penny she makes because as a home care worker she earns about $10 an hour( and that's after 30 years into her career). Her shifts are unpredictable so when she has work, she takes it.

Molita's children are less than pleased that she won't be spending Mother's Day with them ( 3 of 6 still live at home).  "They put on a sad face and say 'Mom, you're never home. You're always working' and I tell them it's just me paying the bills and struggling,'' Molita says.

Molita works for an home care agency that contracts with hospice. Sometimes, she gets hired for private clients. She rarely turns down a job. That means she can't always be there for her kids. "There are a lot of things I don’t attend -- my son’s track meet, my daughter's dance recital, things at school. The kids complain that I'm always working. "

Molita actually is one of the workers who are outspoken about raising the wages of home care workers. Despite being one of America’s fastest growing jobs, home care workers are living below the poverty level, getting paid an average of just $13,000 a year. Almost 50 percent of home care workers rely on some form of public assistance in order to make ends meet. Women, who make up 89 percent of workers in the industry, bear the brunt of these low wages. They typically do not receive expenses such gas or benefits such as health insurance. And, their jobs are unpredictable -- some assignments only last a few hours. 

Molita has spoken out at several rallies for higher wages for home care worker who pushing for $15 an hour. "That's still not a lot but at least I could breathe better. I'm a single mother and there are things my kids need. It's hurtful when I can’t provide for them for my children."  A new report from the National Women’s Law Center substantiates the challenges these moms are facing.

On Mother's Day, Molita will spend the day with an elderly woman whose family lives overseas. She will cook for the woman and care for her until late in the evening. Molita says caring for the elderly is  hard work. "You have to bathe them, feed them, dress them, help with oral have to be caring and compassionate to wipe feces off of a stranger. Not everyone can do that."

Molita hasn’t spent Mother’s Day with her kids in years. It’s a feeling that she remembers from her own childhood - her mother was a home care worker and she remembers not being able to spend time with her on Mother’s Day. Molita says some clients will allow her to bring her children with her on holidays or with them if they go to church.

Even with the challenges, Molita says of her work as a home care attendant: “The work I do is demanding, and it keeps me from my family more than I would like, but it’s essential. I love this work and I intend to keep doing it.”

Happy Mother's Day to Molita and to all the mothers who are working at restaurants, in hospitals, as home health workers and any other job that requires they be away from their families on this special day.  For those who do their best to balance work and family, you are all amazing people! 


October 29, 2014

The High Cost of Caregiving

My friend called me this morning to vent. She just learned her mother has an illness that needs ongoing treatment. She's worried she can't balance her demanding job, her kids and now her sick mom.

I've been there and it isn't easy. 

My friend is considering asking for a leave from her job as an inhouse recruiter at a big company. It's a job that requires face time and has little flexibility.  "What do you think I should do?" she asked me.

"That's a difficult and very personal decision," I replied.

I told her that experts say proceed with caution when pursuing this work life balance path. A few months off can turn into much longer and have serious impact on your finances.

Met Life found that for someone over 50 who leaves work temporarily to care for a loved one, the average lifetime setback is $303,880, including lost wages and retirement benefits.The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion.That's a huge number!

Should you need to lean out for a while, it's possible to keep damage to a minimum with these smart moves published in Money Magazine

1. Plan ahead when possible and re-do your budget by setting aside funds for essential expenses first.

2. Check federal and state leave laws regarding paid and unpaid leave.

3. If you need to quit—but wish to return—make the case ahead of time for a comeback. 

Chances are that almost all of us will face what my friend is experiencing. The number of people who provide personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has tripled over the past 15 years. MetLife's study found daughters are more likely to provide basic care and sons are more likely to provide financial assistance. (No surprise there!) Both scenarios, though, come with their own costs.

If you've confronted this scenario, what would you advise my friend? What are steps you've taken to minimize the financial and emotional toll of caregiving?

October 29, 2013

Got a granny? Her caretaker now gets overtime

Grandma and caregiver

I remember sitting at my dad's funeral next to my grandmother and realizing I was going to have to take over managing her care. Fortunately, I found an in-home caregiver who was a godsend. She took a huge burden off me because I trusted her to take good care of my granny. In return, my siblings and I paid her well. But now, paying well (or at least fairly) means giving an inhome caregiver overtime pay if he or she works more than 40 hours. 

Today, my guest blogger, Mark J. Neubergerr, a labor and employment attorney with Foley & Lardner in Miami, weighs in with a legal update that sheds light on the a new law that gives minimum wage and overtime premium protections to most in-home companionship workers.  As baby boomers age, more of us are going to be confronting the reality that we need to know this new law  -- a costly one for those hiring the caretaker. 

How will this change affect your financial outlook?


Got a Granny? Minimum Wage and Overtime Premium Extended to In-Home Companions

Neuberger-MarkIn a long anticipated move, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that it will will extend the minimum wage and overtime premium protections to most in-home companionship workers.

This is a major policy shift, which not only affects the staffing companies that provide such workers, but also affects individuals who have hired someone on their own. If you currently have, or anticipate having, an elderly or disabled relative or friend who needs “in-home care services,” regardless of who actually “employs” them, the cost of providing such services will likely increase.

The law applies to anyone whose job titles include home health aide, personal care attendant, home maker, companion and others. With an aging population and changes in health care delivery systems, the demand for in-home care for persons of all ages and with all sorts of medical conditions has exploded. The DOL estimates that an additional two million workers will come under the guarantees of the federal minimum wage and time and one-half premium after 40 work hours in a week mandated by the FLSA.

Recognizing that many such workers are employed directly by either the individual receiving the services or a family member, there is a widespread assumption that many such in-home employees are currently underpaid.

The bottom line is that anyone who employs a home care worker will have to pay the minimum wage (currently at $7.25 per hour), pay time and a half the base wage for all hours worked over 40 in any one work week, and keep all of the legally mandated records, including detailed records of all hours worked. Also, be sure to consult the laws in your state, where the state law may provide a higher minimum wage or more restrictive regulations

Clearly, the DOL’s new regulation is not only designed to raise the earnings of these in home workers, but also seeks to kill the “off the books” nature of many of these employment relationships. Even those employees who simply provide non-professional, non-skilled “sitting” services will be covered by the new regulations. Newly covered employees who are engaged through employment agencies or other third party companies will also be covered.

The new rules will become effective January 1, 2015, giving various federal, state and private insurance funding sources sufficient time to come into compliance.  These rules are complex and sometimes confusing. If you are using in-home companions or other workers be sure you understand your obligations. The FLSA is one of the few employment laws that carries criminal penalties for offending employers.



October 08, 2013

Time with kids -- exhausting or rewarding?

Tired mom

My fellow mothers, here's what a new survey says about us. 

We're exhausted.

When my kids were younger, I definitely found going to the office, some days, was more relaxing than being with my kids. Sitting at my desk, clacking on my keyboard, was a piece of cake next to dealing with temper tantrums. Now that my kids are older, spending time with them isn't as physically exhausting but with teens, it can be mentally exhausting.

I may be exhausted, but spending time with my kids also brings me intrinsic rewards I don't get from work. Do you feel the same way?

According to a  new Pew Research Center analysis of government data, mothers report feeling “very tired” in 15% of child-care activities, compared with 6% for fathers. Mothers also report a higher level of fatigue than fathers did in paid work, housework and leisure time.

I think this survey reflects what Katrina Alcorn  asserted in her recent Time Magazine article, Motherhood Gave Me a Nervous Breakdown. She says women are more at risk for the health effects of stress and fatigue because we're juggling so darn much and we're tired. Very tired.

Yet, even though we're tired, we're finding meaning in what we're doing -- at home, with our kids, and at the office.

Pew says mothers are more likely than fathers to feel what they are doing is highly meaningful when they are taking care of the house or engaging in leisure activities. Mothers rate 46% of their housework activities as “very meaningful,” while fathers do the same for 28% of their housework activities. Likewise, mothers rate 63% of their leisure time as highly meaningful, compared with fathers at 52%.

Mothers and fathers are about equally likely to find meaning in caring for children: 63% of child-care activities are “very meaningful” to mothers, compared with fathers at 60%. Paid work has similar meaning to fathers and mothers as well.

Not only do we find meaning in what we're doing, we're happier than fathers when taking care of our kids. Some 37% of mothers’ child-care activities were “very happy” moments, compared with about 29% of fathers’ child-care activities.

So, we may be tired, but I think this survey reflects what most moms believe: we love being working moms!

June 19, 2013

The new reality: Male caregivers for aging parents

As the nation celebrated Father's Day, I wanted to write a twist on the articles we read all the time about more men taking bigger roles in the lives of their children. Yes, men are struggling with work life balance and work and family conflict. However, I saw a trend in men taking care of their aging parents. Although I focused my column today on men taking their dads, plenty of men are caregivers for their mom, too. Expect to see more men needing accommodations at work to pull off this balancing act. 



Flexible work schedules help men who care for parents

John Shoendorf, a CPA, takes a walk with his dad, Harold, along the dock behind Harold's apartment in Coral Gables on June 10, 2013. PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Juan Erman Gonzalez was showing his clothing patterns to a customer when his cellphone buzzed. It was his mother telling him that his father had another fender bender. Gonzalez excused himself to his agitated client and zipped off to persuade dad to give up driving.

That was three years ago.

Today, Gonzalez ‘s dad, 85, resides in an assisted-living facility. The younger Gonzalez and his brother, Guillermo, deliver him special meals, spends a few hours by his side and mows the lawn of the home Dad refuses to sell. Just when he thinks the care arrangements are working smoothly, something will change and require his attention.

Gonzalez says he’s lucky; as a freelance clothing pattern designer, he’s usually able to fit work around his caregiving schedule. “Sometimes I am able to work a complete week, sometimes not.”

Gonzalez is among an increasing number of men caring for aging parents — especially fathers — and experiencing the work/life conflicts this new dynamic brings. While men are less likely to help Dad in the shower or to get dressed, they are stepping in to hire and fire doctors, drive Pop to the grocery store and manage finances. “They are doing things they never expected to do for their dads,” says Gary Barg, CEO and editor in chief of Caregiver Media Group.

Because more male caregivers work full time, many report that overseeing Dad’s care has required they modify their work schedules, leave early, take time off or turn down overtime. According to a study published in 2009 by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the AARP, one out of three caregivers — about 14.5 million — are men. “I think it’s clear that the demands on men as well as women are going to increase in terms of family care,” Barg said.

John Schoendorf, a Miami forensic accountant and only child whose mother died at 40, has been transitioning into the caregiver role for the past two years, and has become closer with his dad. “My father has comfortably brought me into the loop of his financial and medical world.”

Still, Shoendorf has had to change his late-night working habits and rearrange his work hours to go with his 86-year-old father, Harold, on doctors’ appointments. “I have had to remember family is more important than work. That’s harder to do sometimes than others.”

While male caregivers like Schoendorf deal with the same issues as their female counterparts, they also face distinctive challenges. They are more likely to use paid assistance for their loved ones’ personal care. They tend to travel farther or spend more time organizing care from a distance, and they are more hesitant to let a boss or co-worker know about their role as a caregiver, according to the AARP. In fact, men feel challenged by the perception that their need for time off or flexibility to care for Dad will be seen as a lack of commitment to their job.

“We try to get male caregivers to understand they have taken on a new job role,” Barg says. “They have become CEO of Caring for my Loved One Inc. and that takes a time commitment.”

Sons often find their new role is an emotional and logistical roller coaster. Carlos Ramirez, a Miami healthcare consultant, has been caring for his 80-year-old father since his sister recently died from breast cancer. His father, who suffers from diabetes, now relies on Ramirez to make medical decisions that recently included the amputation of a toe. “On a typical week, I’ll make him appointments, go with him on appointments and follow up with doctors.”

Ramirez often needs to exercise the flexibility his career as a consultant provides. “Some specialists only see patients certain days of the week or do procedures certain days.” He finds himself in an ongoing tussle over how much of his father’s care he can personally take on.

Experts say getting ahead of an aging father’s needs makes the balancing act easier — but often doesn’t happen. Men are more likely to ignore the mental or physical decline and believe a father who says he’s fine — until it reaches a crisis, says Amy Seigel, director of Advocare Care Management in South Florida. “When a father says he’s fine, a son goes back to his childhood and he is still that guy’s son.”

Seigel, who runs a geriatric care management company, often gets the call from a concerned son miles away from Dad when a situation spirals out of control. “They are panicked because they are at work and having trouble managing the medical and emotion needs of a parent who lives in another city or state.”

Recently, she heard from a New York surgeon who called in between operations. He had called to check on his dad in a hospital in South Florida but was disconnected several times. “I can’t keep leaving my job and getting on a plane because Dad fell in Florida,” he exasperatedly told Seigel.

Such struggles are what led Seigel to launch her South Florida business. “We become the eyes and ears for these adult children who need help with overseeing the medical, physical and mental health needs of a parent.”

Whether from a distance or nearby, Seigel says managing the care of an aging parent is an emotional period for adult children when roles change. “It’s a chance to mend any differences and build a bond. It can be a nice, rewarding experience.”

Gonzalez and his father have had a strained relationship for many years. But now, as he spends time with Dad and shares caretaking with his brother, he sees himself as a role model for his children, 26 and 19. “It’s important for me to show my children there’s respect for the elderly. Even though I have worked out a system of professional care, it doesn’t mean I drop my father off and abandon him. I’m showing my kids that you be there for family.”

Even with busy work schedules, caregivers can be there for a parent by calling at the same time every day, says Steven Huberman, dean of the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work. Huberman also advises reluctant male caregivers to use personal days, ask for flexibility and inquire about elder care benefits, particular if they become aware of their father’s deteriorating condition. “It may seem like a burden, but I recommend they savor the moment.”


December 14, 2012

Work life balance, holidays, divorce -- managing it all

Divorce and kids


As a child of divorced parents, I remember my mom and dad arguing every holiday season over how they will make their work schedules fit in with who gets us kids on which holidays. My dad, a doctor, was often on call so keeping set days was tricky and, the negotiations often got ugly. 

Today, my guest blogger, Barry Finkel who shares his wisdom on how to keep family peace during the holiday season. Barry  is the founding partner of The Law Firm of  Barry I. Finkel P.A., a divorce and family law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focused on serving the needs of the entire family. .

By now, you should know which vacation days you will be able to use or which days your workplace will be closed. If you or your former spouse need to switch or negotiate remember civility: "The key question is 'Do I love my child more than I hate my ex?'"

Barry says:   "The most important thing to keep in mind is the best interests of your child. A lot of times divorce is highly emotional, and the vision of what is really important gets cloudy."

While he acknowledges that last minute issues arise, here is his advice for how to balance work, kids and divorce during the holiday season:

Barry_Finkel_050-minThe holidays are upon us. Even for families of divorce dealing with time sharing and child custody arrangements, this can be a season of joy. With some advance planning, cooperation and flexibility, the children can enjoy quality holiday time with both parents.


It’s important that the divorce settlement’s child custody or time sharing arrangement be flexible enough to reflect and respect the family’s new reality. Assuming that’s the case, the following tips can help ensure everyone enjoys the holiday season together:



-          Focus on the kids. With all the following suggestions, keep the kids’ needs and emotions foremost in mind when making any changes to the time-sharing agreement. If issues or conflict arise, step back and seek compromise.


-          Plan ahead. As much as possible, parents should plan their holiday festivities around the existing time-sharing schedule. The normalcy and regularity of the existing schedule provides stability – especially for younger children.


-          Divide the day. If the families traditionally celebrate Christmas day, split the day in half, with one parent getting Christmas morning one year, and afternoon / evening the next. The same should be applied for New Years. Same goes for other holidays, like Hanukkah. With eight days, families have eight opportunities to celebrate.


-          Share the celebration. If the family historically has shared a holiday dinner, gift exchange or other ritual the kids have come to expect, continue the practice – assuming the parents can get along.


-          Meet the needs of out-of-town family. Grandparents and other family members have no inherent rights regarding time-sharing. If extended family has flown in for the holidays, however, parents should agree to relax time-sharing.


-          Get away. Whether through the timesharing terms or mutual agreement, it’s permissible for one parent to travel during the holidays without the children. If this is the first special holiday you will be alone, don’t put a guilt trip on your child.  Get out with friends, or volunteer at a hospital or food bank.


-          Always keep the children’s needs and expectations in mind. Observing or maintaining past traditions provides stability to the kids. Limit shuttling from one parent’s home to the other’s. Be flexible. Have fun.




September 24, 2012

5 secrets of success from Emmy Winners



If you watched the Emmy Awards last night, you might have noticed that the winners revealed their secrets to success.

Here's what I noticed:

1. Winning takes teamwork. Every winner went right up to the stage and thanked their team. That got me thinking, who would I thank?  If you won an award for doing your job well, who would you thank? Who is on your team at home and at work that pushes you and supports you to be all you can be? The right team also is critical to career success and work life balance. If there are not enough people on your team, do something about it.

2. Every winner dressed the part. My favorite part of awards shows is seeing how celebrities dress and act when they are their true selves. Do they successfully pull off the role of winner? Look at how you dress and act at work. Do you look and act like a winner? If you set a goal of becoming a law firm partner or landing a new client, you need to act like you're already in the role. This doesn't mean go out and spend a fortune on clothes. It means carefully watching those who win and knowing what you need to change to make it happen for you.

 3. Winners get inspiration from others. Emmy winners openly talk about who inspires them, even if it's their competition. Last night, Damian Lewis of Homeland, winner for lead actor in a drama, said he was inspired by the other lead actors nominees: "What an extraordinary honour to be in a category with these golden actors setting a gold standard in acting in a golden age of TV." Are you looking around your workplace or studying your competition for inspiration?

4. Emmy winners overcome periods of doubt. There are exceptions, but most Emmy winners have had low points in their careers. Mad Men's Jon Hamm, for example, spent much of the mid-1990s in Los Angeles as a struggling actor. Unlike other actors his age, he looked older and was turned away for youth-oriented productions.  Hamm's Mad Men castmate Eric Ladin has said that one of the reasons he looks up to Jon is that while he "made it" later than most actors, Hamm never gave up on acting.  You may be out of work for a brief period and may even need to reinvent yourself, but don't give up on career success.

5. Losing isn't all bad. HBO's Girls creator and star Lena Dunham is only 26 and was nominated for 3 Emmys for directing, acting and writing. That's a HUGE accomplishment. She didn't win but she did get a lot of buzz. Sometimes we don't realize that just being on the radar is a step in the right direction. If a deal doesn't come through immediately or you don't get the title you're seeking, stay with it. Sometimes just getting noticed is a win.


I think the coolest part of being an Emmy winner is that the title sticks with you for life. For example, from now on, every time anyone introduces Claire Danes, last night's winner for lead actress in a drama, they will say "Emmy Winner Claire Danes." While I'd love "Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist" as part of my title, I'm equally happy with being introduced as Carly's mom. I think I play that part well. In the end, for me, that's what being a winner is all about. 


May 04, 2012

Caregiving and work life balance: how to help your employee stay sane


When my 100 year old grandmother lived nearby and needed supervision, I felt stressed all the time. Working and taking care of an elderly relative is SO exhausting.

Did you know that between 30 and 35 percent of all U.S. workers report that they are currently providing care to an aging parent or disabled family member? About 11 percent of working caregivers will take a leave of absence and 10 percent will leave their jobs. Employers that can help their employees manage the stress of caregiver responsibilities and find balance have a lot to gain


Blanca CeballosToday, my guest blogger Blanca Ceballos who offers suggestion for how employers can  help their workers balance work and caregiving. Blanca is Manager of the Caregiver Resource Center atUnited HomeCare. United HomeCare has designed The Working Caregiver Assistance Program to provide employees who are caring for a parent or other loved one with information and support. Blanca can be reached at


Caregivers face daily challenges as they juggle work schedules, parenting responsibilities, and personal lives while also caring for an aging or disabled family member. High blood pressure, weight gain, and depression are just some of the common health conditions family caregivers may experience.

I talked with one woman whose mother had Alzheimer’s disease. Several months after her mother moved in with her family, the caregiver learned that her cholesterol had risen dramatically and she had gained weight. The woman realized she was no longer exercising and was turning to comfort foods to help cope with the stress. She also no longer slept well, waking up several times a night to check on her mom.

 This caregiver’s situation is not unique. Employers will have to face the facts: between 30 to 35 percent of all U.S. workers are family caregivers, putting them into a special class of employees – the working caregiver. At one time or another, most of these employees have to make some adjustments to their work life to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.

By addressing the unique needs of working caregivers through worksite wellness programs, employers can improve the health and wellness of their staff and also yield bottom line savings through reduced absenteeism and lost productivity.


Here’s how:


  • Look for signs of caregiver stress among employees and reach out to them. Caregivers who are struggling to manage all their responsibilities at home and at work may show signs of fatigue, increased absenteeism or depression. But sometimes they will be reluctant to discuss family caregiving issues in a work setting. By reaching out to them, employers can initiate a dialogue that may help employees understand that they are not alone and there are community resources that may be of help.


  • Become an information resource for employees with caregiving responsibilities. Employers are in an excellent position to help employees simply by making available good information. Invite experts to come in and talk on the subject of caring for an elderly or disabled family member. Some organizations, including United HomeCare, offer free seminars to help caregivers learn more about managing their responsibilities, provide basic caregiving tips, and also share information on community resources and support groups. 


  • Educate employees about home care services they can obtain with flex care plans. Many employees who participate in flex care plans may not realize that some home care services for a dependent parent or other family member may be paid from flex care plans. Human Resources professionals can help communicate this information to employees and the conditions that must be met to qualify.


Helping working caregivers is a win-win situation. 


July 25, 2011

Avoid sibling struggles over elder care

I remember getting the call when my elderly aunt fell, went to the hospital. The social worker suggested (insisted) she go into a nursing home. My aunt had no kids and my sister, brother and I were the closest family members she had. The call began a series of discussions among my siblings about how to handle big decisions about her care, her finances and who takes time off to supervise. 

My brother is single. Does that mean he should be the one to do all the time-consuming tasks?

As parents age, siblings often are forced to make decisions as a team and decide which adult child will take the lead. That can get tricky when sibling rivalry exists. 

Attorney Mark Grand suggest parents do as much prep work as possible as they begin to age. The basics, he says, are to assign a power of attorney and health care surrogate. "You have a better chance that things will go well." His biggest piece of advice: "I don’t recommend putting kids to act together as power of attorney if you already know they can’t get along."

Below is my Miami Herald column with suggestions from experts.


The Miami Herald

Caring for elders a challenge for families

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Kirk Lyttle / MCT
The phone call came when Robin D’Angelo was at work. Her father had fallen and was headed to the hospital in an ambulance — again. “I had to drop everything and rush to the scene.” D’Angelo felt her temper rising. She recently had argued with her brothers who live hundreds of miles away over whether to spend money to hire a full-time caregiver. “I feel like it’s all on me. I think the money would be well spent.”

For siblings, taking care of an aging parent can be fraught with decisions and dissention. As parents grow dependent on their adult children, arguments can erupt over whose work schedule is most flexible, whether mom or dad should move to a nursing home or who has control over financial decisions. The desire to cling to old familial roles or continue a festering rivalry can surface at the precise time when siblings most need cohesiveness.

“Even if siblings didn’t get along before, it’s possible to bond over the care of a parent,” says Rona Bartelstone, senior vice president of care management at SeniorBridge, a provider of elder care at home. “Focus on the common goal. It is all about your parent.”

Parent care promises to be an increasingly big concern for adult children. About 43 million Americans look after someone 50 or older, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. Compared with five years ago, a smaller percentage — 41 percent vs. 46 percent — are hiring professional help. And more — 70 percent vs. 59 percent — are reaching out to unpaid help such as family and friends. Care giving is projected to cost those who look after their parents an estimated $3 trillion in lost wages, pensions, retirement funds and benefits, according to The MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Avoiding sibling struggles over parent care requires the ability to disagree without judgment, show each other mutual respect and communicate early and often. Experts say it’s possible to work together even if not everyone can participate in the same way and it’s possible to achieve consensus even in the most dysfunctional family. Warns Bartelstone: “There is no magic formula because every family is unique.”

Read more including some great tips.