Caregiver Simulation Project
Part II: Employer Perspectives
Last month, we reported on an innovative
employer education program undertaken by the
Alzheimer's Association of Southeast Wisconsin and
other agencies with funding by the United Way in
Waukesha County. This month, we feature interviews
with two representatives of employers who attended
the caregiver simulation event. The project exposed
employers to the reality of caregiving challenges by
having them engage in a guided problem-solving
process that illustrated the variety of situations and
challenges faced by employed family caregivers. For
more, see July 08 issue.
Interview #1: Deborah Fuderer (DF), who
works for GE Healthcare as program director of the
Cancer Support Connection, heard about the event
from a communication manager at her company.
JPM: Why was your company interested in your
attending this event?
DF: The Cancer Support Connection is an internal
program for our employees and their immediate
family members who are diagnosed with cancer. This
was a good opportunity to take advantage of local
resources for this group. We are finding more of our
employees who are dealing with a parent who is
getting older and in need of care.
JPM: What was the Caregiver Simulation
DF: We had individual scenarios that we had to
resolve. I thought it was very interesting where some
things were easier to resolve and others more difficult.
I learned that there are a lot of resources in our county
that I had no clue even existed. I also learned that you
need to be organized when you go to talk with
I think the average person has no idea how really
difficult it is to do it, i.e., finding the elder care that's
needed. It would be very beneficial for HR teams to
actually go through something like this. I was amazed
that the process wasn't more streamlined and easier
to deal with.
JPM: Did you share your experience with anyone
back at your company?
DF: Because we are so large a company, we
would need to translate the program into an initiative
that would work across the U.S. I definitely think the
company would look at doing this on a national level -
helping employees know where to go on a local level.
I think many people are going to be in for a real
rude awakening when they realize what's involved in
Interview #2: Sandy Shockley (SS) works for UPS in Business Development
and heard about the project via an announcement at a staff
meeting that provided an update on United Way activities.
JPM: Why were you interested in this topic?
SS: I've been a caregiver in the past and recently I
was a caregiver for my uncle. And this time, I found
that it was affecting my life at work and at home.
JPM: What was the Caregiver Simulation
experience like for you?
SS: It was a real eye-opener because, a lot of
times, we focus on our own family situation and
what's happening with them. To go to the simulation
and be given the different scenarios handed out - real-
life situations that others face - raised my awareness.
The main benefit was realizing that I am not alone. I
guess it is becoming an every day thing in our society.
People are living longer lives and they need
assistance as they get older. What I wasn't so aware
of was that everyone cannot wind up in a nursing
home. The elderly have to be taken care of by family
Dealing with my uncle, who did wind up in a
nursing home, I was horrified with the lack of care he
received - and with the amount of money paid out.
Even if you have an elderly relative placed in a nursing
home, you are still an active caregiver. In fact, you feel
more obligated. And it's hard. I could not believe how
draining it is.
The simulation showed me where you can look for
support groups - probably a little too late for me, but
great to know that these resources are available for
JPM: How would you recommend that this type of
education be brought to more employers?
SS: These types of events should be offered at
least twice a year. Reach out to the management and
HR people at the companies. If they are not aware of
this issue, they can't really respond.
JPM: Did you report back to your company after
the simulation experience?
SS: We did share the findings at two different
meetings. Because of my caregiving experience, I had
educated my immediate supervisor and manager
about my situation. One of our HR people also
attended the simulation and I know that she did report
back to other managers.
I've been an employee at UPS for 29 years now
and I've never worked with a manager that I couldn't
talk to about this type of issue. I've found that, at UPS,
managers do listen and respond.
I'd like to see more of these simulations, covering
more topics, like the importance of having a living will
and the decisions that caregivers often have to make
on behalf of elders who may become mentally
Paul Marosy is the author of Elder Care: A
Six Step Guide to Balancing
Work and Family, available from Bringing Elder
Care Home Publishing online
at our Web site or by calling