For adult children and their aging parents, certain conversations can be difficult to broach. The later years of life come with some challenging decisions for families—on health needs, finances, housing, wills, and more.
But, as a rule, these conversations are actually much easier to have well before they're forced upon you, says Meg Stoltzfus of the Office of Work, Life and Engagement at Johns Hopkins. Too often, she says, people wait until "a point of crisis," such as a health emergency, to make the tough calls.
The Aging Adult Services team at Hopkins is here to help employees wade through these kinds of issues. Stoltzfus and fellow lifespan services manager Barbara Fowler provide consultations, workshops, referrals, and other assistance to make the maze of elder care easier to navigate.
The situations they deal with vary widely, but the "big bucket" issues, Fowler says, are "legal, financial, medical, and housing." Often, she and Stoltzfus serve as a first point of contact for information, then point to the right place for more specialized help.
Recent consultations they've provided include connecting an employee to an elder law attorney, mediating a teleconference between siblings arranging their mother's nursing care, and sharing information on senior apartments for parents with limited funds.
In addition to responding directly to needs as they arise, the team can help Hopkins employees educate themselves more generally for the future. When should you start thinking about elder care options? It's never too early, Stolztfus and Fowler say, though they point to the "40/70 rule" that's popular in caregiving circles: by the time the child is 40 or the parent 70, whichever comes first.
Johns Hopkins is forward-thinking in providing these services as a free benefit to employees, as workplaces across the country grapple with growing numbers of workers with elder care responsibilities. As the population ages, and more people are living longer with chronic medical conditions, the need to address these issues is mounting.
The resources at Hopkins are typically geared toward the caregiving adult dealing with a parent or other relative, whether locally or from afar, but Stoltzfus and Fowler say they occasionally see some employees who are preparing for their own elder care.
The services are available for free for fully benefited employees of the Johns Hopkins University and Health System.
Here's a rundown on how you can make use of them:
Book an appointment. Through individualized consultations, the lifespan services managers can provide information, support, and informed referrals to other caregiving resources, and help with problem solving. They aim to make it easy for the caregivers, so they can meet up with employees at Homewood, East Baltimore, or other locations—or at their own office at Johns Hopkins at Eastern. To schedule, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 443-997-7000.
Register for backup care. For temporary or unexpected situations when an elderly adult requires in-home care, Hopkins employees can explore a unique aspect of their benefits package: 10 days of subsidized backup care available through Care.com, the world's largest online network of caregivers. Care.com can provide nonmedical services for adults, including companionship, meal preparation, and transportation help anywhere in the country. Employees can pre-register on the Work, Life and Engagement website.
Take a workshop. The monthly WorkLife Presents series of workshops, held September to May, often focuses on caregiving and elder care topics, such as senior housing, Medicare, and stress relief. The full calendar is here. Registration is required.
Request a workshop. Individual departments or employee groups at Hopkins can arrange for their own specialized workshops on elder care topics. Fill out a request online for a free, 60-minute session at a location of the group's choice.
Sign up for emails. The Office of Work, Life and Engagement sends out regular emails on its programs and upcoming events. Check the boxes for the "Caregivers Network" group and the "WorkLife Presents" workshops.