Coming out of the closet with caregiving

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Anthony Cirillo
Anthony Cirillo
A recent article in Employee Benefit News focused on employers caring for the caregiver. It reported on one Rhode Island hospital that offered a special-needs planning seminar where caregivers learned about beneficiary designations, future medical and housing needs, government benefits and setting up a special-needs trust. For one caregiver it changed her life.

Here's the rub. The hospital had only a 1.1% attendance rate at its seminars, pointing to a more systemic problem — identifying the caregiver. Because many caregivers do not disclose that they are caregivers to colleagues for fear it might affect the way their work is evaluated.

Who ever thought that caregivers would need to come out of the closet and be accepted?

The article goes on to encourage employers to consider offering special-needs seminars as a benefit. Otherwise, they might be at risk of losing talented employees. In addition, they cited other “caregiver” benefits such as flexible work schedules and telecommuting.

FML benefits actually cover caregiving situations. You may take leave to care for your parent, your child, your spouse though the definition does not include in-laws.

And truth be told, healthcare providers, more than most, are sensitive to these issues and provide the necessary safety nets for employees who are caregivers. It's the right thing to do and it makes good business sense.

So for our industry, it is more about creating a culture of acceptance for the caregiver employee so that they will take advantage of these programs. And that is hard when you compound the situation with an industry that has many lower-paid workers who perceive they are easily replaceable and would rather work than face financial hardship.

But the impact can go much further. Look at the caregivers who come into your facilities or whose parents you care for in their home. They have employers too. And those employers need education around the needs of caregivers.

Providers should take the lead in providing access to this type of education. Again, it is the right thing to do but it is also good for business. After all, you are in business. And developing business has a lot to do with building relationships, developing influencers and spreading word of mouth. So it makes good marketing sense to look at this issue more closely.

In fact, if you pay close attention to the caregivers you encounter, you will find out what needs they have and you can develop a set of core offerings around their needs that you could bring to employers. We call it brand extensions.

Brand extension is a strategy that can reduce financial risk by using the parent brand name to enhance consumers' perception. While there can be significant benefits in brand extension strategies, there can also be significant risks, resulting in a diluted or severely damaged brand image. Poor choices for brand extension may dilute and deteriorate the core brand and damage the brand equity.

A brand extension can be a great tool to increase brand awareness, bring together cause and community and tie back to your core mission. But it takes visionary leaders to reach beyond the comfort zone to accomplish this.

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, president of Fast Forward Consulting, is a sought-after speaker, healthcare expert, elder advocate and blogger. He works with long-term care facilities in the area of resident experience and strategic marketing. Anthony is an expert guide for assisted living for about.com and is on the board of CCAL. He is the author of "Who Moved My Dentures?" In his spare time, he entertains residents in assisted living and nursing facilities.

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