Responsibilities can vary, but the average caregiver spends more than 10 hours per week offering support, doing such things as helping with grocery shopping, driving to appointments, and engaging with other service providers. Less than half of current caregivers receive any form of financial assistance for that support, yet the average caregiver spends more than $7,000 per year helping the elder in their care, according to the Safeguarding Our Seniors study from Allianz Life.
One key issue facing both seniors and their caregivers (and one very relevant to our industry), is elder financial abuse. Financial abuse can severely reduce a senior's hard-earned savings, but the damage doesn't stop there.
Under the recently enacted Senior Safe Act, all financial services firms are required to provide training to employees to help them spot signs of elder financial exploitation, and firms are empowered to notify the proper agencies and local units of government if they believe a client may be the target of financial exploitation — without fear of negative repercussions. That is an important step forward, but in addition to watching out for their customers, financial services firms should also make protecting their employee caregivers from financial abuse a top priority.
Here are a few ways that financial services organizations can help employee caregivers:
• Educate employee caregivers on the red flags to help them spot potential financial abuse in their own families. While the signs may be different for financial professionals, family caregivers are likely to be much more in tune with their elder's finances and should be aware of any warning signs. This may include changes in financial activity such as inconsistent transactions, opening new debit or credit cards, adding new account holders or changing a power of attorney.
• Encourage employees to talk about the issue with the person they care for. Elder financial abuse can be a sensitive topic, but starting a dialogue and sharing examples of potential fraud are the first steps in raising awareness.
• Offer access to care management programs, which are often available through health insurance providers. These programs provide resources for caregivers, such as connecting them with relevant local agencies, and can help if someone suspects their family member is undergoing or being targeted for financial abuse.
Beyond elder financial abuse, firms should consider adding extra benefits and support programs for caregivers, such as paid caregiver leave or flexible work schedules to help accommodate their needs.
The financial services industry is already on the front lines of addressing elder financial abuse among customers, but the caregivers within our own walls may be facing these same challenges.
In our industry, best practices in protecting consumers should start at home. Financial services firms have an important opportunity to help their own employee caregivers protect and support the elder members of their families and in the process help reduce elder financial abuse among the growing population of older adults.
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How financial services firms can help employee caregivers