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Local elder care service courts working care givers: My Health Care Manager partners with local firms to reach children of aging parents on the job

August 6, 2007

Local startup My Health Care Manager has found a faster way to get its elder-care message out.

It has persuaded five local employers to direct their workers to My Health Care Manager if they need help finding and coordinating care for one of their aging parents.

As of Aug. 1, law firms Barnes & Thornburg, Ice Miller and Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman, accounting firm Katz Sapper & Miller and the Indianapolis office of the Publicis advertising firm all have agreed to tell their employees about My Health Care Manager.

In total, those firms will offer My Health Care Manager an audience of more than 1,900 people, spread over five states and the District of Columbia.

My Health Care Manager's CEO, Alan Stanford, said he expects to have six to eight local employers signed up within a month or two.

In its 18-month life, My Health Care Manager has found the more than 50 seniors it serves one at a time. Now, by working through employers, company officials figure they can add customers faster. And by tapping employers with far-flung offices, they hope to take their service nationwide.

"We're offering a solution to a pervasive issue," Stanford said.

Working care givers cost U.S. employers $34 billion a year, according to a 2006 study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. That's $2,110 per full-time employee. And the scope of the issue is growing.

That's because the parents of the oldest baby boomers are now in their 80s, when they're less likely to be able to take care of themselves. So, a greater percentage of the nation's largest demographic group is going to spend parts of their days handling or worrying about the care of their mom or dad.

Bill O'Donnell can relate. In a career in human resources, O'Donnell saw workers be absent, distracted or even step down from their jobs in order to care for parents-particularly when their parents lived in a different city.

Now he has two parents in their 80s in Boston. His 83-year-old mother and his siblings spend significant time caring for his 87-year-old father, who has major heart problems. O'Donnell is not a customer of My Health Care Manager.

"I spend a ton of time, between e-mails and phone calls, hearing whose turn it was to drive Dad into Mass General Hospital," said O'Donnell, who is now the director of the MBA program at Butler University's College of Business Administration. "It is a logistics issue that would boggle the mind of the most vaunted logistics planner."

And that's essentially what My Health Care Manager is, a logistics planner. It uses nurses to assess the needs of the 50 seniors it serves and find health care providers who can best serve them. Then it uses online tools and e-mails to keep all the concerned children informed.

Its rates aren't cheap. While the first call is free, My Health Care Manager charges about $125 an hour after that.

None of the employers are subsidizing My Health Care Manager's services for their employees. But My Health Care Manager has offered a group rate to any of the workers who sign up.

When professional firms such as Barnes & Thornburg can save time for its attorneys, who earn hundreds of dollars an hour, it's worth it, said Ken Kobe, executive director of the Indianapolis law firm.

"It just struck me as a service for which there was an immediate need," said Kobe, who is the top non-lawyer executive at the firm. "Not for 50 percent of our work force. But a real need for some significant portion of our work force."

Hall Render signed up for similar reasons, said its vice president, Gregg Wallander.

"I think over the past few years, a few of my partners would have been helped by this service," Wallander said. "In any job, if you are having personal issues, family crisis, it's certainly difficult to keep focused on work. We're all human."

Indianapolis human resources consultant Mark McNulty said he expects more employers to embrace My Health Care Manager or services like it. These days, he said, they want to do anything to keep good employees-and that includes reducing stress in their lives.

"It certainly makes a lot of sense to me for employers to be offering this," said McNulty, president of HR Dimensions. He added, "Employers are looking for any kind of edge in this whole talentmanagement arena."
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