If you are working for a medium- to large-size employer, you probably have access to an Employer Assistance Plan (EAP). If so, it is worth checking out. An EAP is like having your own social worker – and usually at no cost to you.
If you are not familiar with this benefit, an EAP is part of an employer’s behavioral health program and is ordinarily delivered by independent resources, most likely the employer’s insurance provider. The service is commonly free of charge to employees and is confidential.
Many plans offer a variety of assistance that could be helpful to you as a caregiver. This could include a dial-in telephone number for referrals as well as an website filled with information for caregivers, such as assessments, checklists and webinars. Some examples of referrals are:
- Elder care living arrangements. An EAP can help you with, or refer you to, an agency that can provide a list of living facilities for your loved one. You provide them with information such as location, level of independence/assistance needed, anticipated move-in date, etc., and the agency creates a list of possibilities. Some will make appointments for you to visit the facilities so that an agent is waiting for you when you arrive.
- Home health providers. Although you may already have referrals from doctors or hospitals, if your loved one lives in an area where the hospital or doctor does not practice, this referral service might be helpful.
- Counseling. Most EAP programs provide two or three free counseling sessions with a licensed therapist or social worker. That may be enough time for you and the provider to determine if you would like to continue with the counseling or if you just needed a few sessions. The provider can refer you to a licensed practitioner for additional sessions.
- Legal assistance. Caregivers can face a barrage of legal questions from living wills to property deeds. This service may be able to answer basic questions for you or refer you for more involved situations.
Other tools available to you if the EAP has a website include:
- Assessments. How are you coping with stress? Are you depressed? Is your loved one’s home safe?
- Webinars. Caregivers do not always have the ability to attend classes for self-improvement, information or enjoyment. See if your EAP offers webinars that you can watch at a specific time or location that is convenient for you.
- Discounts. You may be eligible for discounts on some of the services offered outside of the EAP (e.g., tax assistance, home cleaning, etc.). Don’t overlook these.
Every employer’s plan is different, but it is worth seeing what is available to you as an employee to make your caregiving responsibilities easier while you are working.
Have you used your employer’s EAP to help with caregiving?