Public Long Term Care Assistance Helps Businesses Retain Experienced Employees

By Dawn Morais
Originally published by Hawai'i Reporter, December 4, 2016

Mimi Beams is an effervescent 69 year old sales and marketing executive who will soon be retiring from her current position in an executive search firm. Born and raised in New Jersey, she has lived in Hawaii since 1972.

Her husband, Biff Graper is 74 years old and has been working in the restaurant business for over 40 years. The first 30 were spent operating and managing multiple restaurants. He then joined Colliers International as a real estate agent specializing in retail and restaurant operations. He first came to Hawaii in 1968. Biff has three grown children and two grandchildren.

Biff and Mimi are both healthy adults who continue to be busy, contributing members of the community and are active in a variety of business and nonprofit organizations. They believe public long term care assistance can be helpful to both workers and the organizations that employ them as it could help retain experienced employees who might otherwise leave to take care of family members. This conversation offers some insight into how two successful business people view long term care as it has affected them and people close to them. Biff and Mimi also reflect on their own search for good solutions to their own long term care needs and the need for public policy solutions to a looming challenge.

Q: Have you personally been affected, or do you know someone who has been affected by the challenge of caring for an ailing, disabled or aging parent or child at home?

Fortunately, we have never been directly impacted, but Biff’s step-mother had to quit her job to care for Biff’s dad who developed Alzheimer’s. They lived in California. She was not able to return to her previous job, but did find work elsewhere after he passed away. Locally, we’ve seen and met many adult children who have made the sacrifice of quitting work to care for elderly parents. This includes a number of children who left high paying jobs on the mainland to come home to Hawaii. Re-entering the work force was not easy through this last recession. A sudden gap in a maturing career is tough to overcome.

Q: What do you believe was the “cost” of a premature exit from the workplace, for the individual and for the organization?

The exact cost to an organization varies, but clearly there is a cost in terms of disruption and loss of experienced people. Premature departures from the workforce impacted career growth with a number of people we know. One friend found it very difficult to pick up and move on after her parents were gone. Fortunately, in that one case, though it took time, she eventually found good employment.

Q: Are you anxious about what your own needs might be as you age and how will you address those needs?

Yes, we are concerned. We have invested in long-term care insurance, which is now fully paid for, as is our home. While two of Biff’s grown children live in Hawaii, we do not expect either of them to be able to step in and help with our care. We are still looking for solid solutions.

Q: What do you think the community’s responsibility is towards those who may not have adequate resources to meet their long term care needs, or who may have sacrificed their careers to become caregivers to loved ones?

As with universal healthcare, there should be a base level of support available to anyone who needs it. Not providing that basic help ultimately costs everyone more in the long run.

Q: Should businesses support public policies that provide some measure of assistance to families that need it to allow seniors to age in their own homes?

Absolutely! The best and often the least expensive care is in the home. Additionally, seniors are most often happy when they can continue to live in their own home. But they need help –and need to be able to afford help—to age in their own homes.

Mimi Beams and Biff Graper enjoy traveling to exotic places, but Hawaii has been home for more than four decades. They look forward to finding affordable care solutions that will let them stay in their own home in the years to come.

Mimi Beams and Biff Graper enjoy traveling to exotic places, but Hawaii has been home for more than four decades. They look forward to finding affordable care solutions that will let them stay in their own home in the years to come.

Q: Do you think businesses will benefit from having a program/policy that addresses the need to support workers who are faced with the challenge of juggling work and caregiving?

Yes, turnover always costs the employer. If it was easy for employers to provide relief to their employee, while holding their job for them, it would reduce some of the stress on both the employee and the company. It allows the company to retain the knowledge of company practices and the experience of long term employees. That ensures continuity and stability.

Q: A recent AARP poll conducted in 15 states showed that 2 out of 3 women believe that Social Security should be changed to create a credit for people who take time off from work for care-giving responsibilities. Do you agree?

Yes! This is a great idea! This provides great care for an elder by a family member while not punishing the provider of the care.

Q: What would you say to legislators about making long term care assistance a priority in the 2017 legislative session?

With the Baby Boomers approaching retirement, this issue is accelerating and needs to be addressed immediately. It would be very wise to get ahead of the challenge. I’m quite sure the longer the delay, the higher the long term cost to our community. We should take some steps towards affordable solutions to care for the elderly before it becomes even more costly than it already is to the individual and to the state.

To join the conversation and take action on long term care assistance go to http://www.care4kupuna.com/