International Journal of Sociology
and Social Policy
Vol. 28 No. 9/10, 2008
# Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Received March 2007
Revised August 2007
Accepted August 2007
Social policy recommendations to
alleviate stress among informal
providers of elder care
Department of Business, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown,
Faculty of Management, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, and
Mark C. Gillen
Department of Counseling and School Psychology,
University of Wisconsin River Falls, River Falls, Wisconsin, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine social policy recommendations to deal with the
high level of pressure placed upon informal providers of elder care.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper investigates this subject of elder care by first
establishing the significance of the problem. The paper provides an examination of how this problem
is dealt with in several countries, both at the governmental level and by private enterprise. This
forms the basis of a discussion of social (and enterprise) policy implications in particular for the USA.
A focus on flexible work scheduling as a viable means to help alleviate the problem is recommended.
In particular an approach of voluntary compliance is proposed to encourage wider acceptance by
Findings – The paper finds that priority needs to be given to developing a social policy agenda that
focuses on flexible work scheduling. In addition, meaningful effort must be expended to capture input
from various stakeholders, and to educate and promote the program itself. Concurrently, efforts
targeted at managers must be executed to move them away from the traditional line of sight
management schema into one more akin to a target-based schema.
Originality/value – The paper offers useful suggestions to promote implementation.
Keywords Elder care, Stress, Flexible working hours, Social policy, United States of America
Paper type Conceptual paper
This paper deals with the toll that elder care takes on those who provide the care. While
the problem with elder care has been much discussed, in most countries, and in the
USA in particular, there has so far been no social policy to specifically deal with the
challenges associated with what some writers have labeled the pending ‘‘elder care
crisis’’. We first establish the gravity of the issue, and then offer a survey of various
initiatives that are in place in other countries as well as those that have been
implemented by some companies in the private sector. Our goal in this paper is to
propose a set of social policy recommendations that are grounded in best practices that
we can observe from our research.
There are currently 36 million Americans over 65 (USA Today, 2005). This number
will surge when in 2010, the first wave of baby boomers themselves hit 65. By that
time, some 13 per cent of the US population will be 65 and older, and by 2030, the
proportion will hit 20 per cent (Brantman, 2003). Society is definitely greying. However,
this phenomenon of aging population is not unique to America.
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