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Jack Stoerger, a paralegal in the New York office of Hunton & Williams, was all but commuting to St. Louis last September retrieving documents for litigation when his mother was struck by a car. “My mom is an active woman in her early 80s who goes to the gym three times a week, drives her own car, does her own shopping,” said Stoerger, 45. “The accident broke her hip and we thought the end was near.” One worry Stoerger did not have was choosing between caring for his mother and going to work every day. Richmond, Va.-based Hunton & Williams last year expanded its benefits package to include temporary care for elderly family members. “Nobody was asking for it, but you hear in the hallway about people who are concerned about their parents,” said Jacob Kerkhoff, benefits manager for Hunton & Williams. A small but growing number of law firms, concerned that attorneys and staff are torn between family emergencies and demanding jobs, are expanding programs providing back-up child care to include parents. “The older we get, the more we responsibility we have for our elderly parents,” said Lori Johnson, chief of human resources at Bryan Cave, which is adding the elder care benefit as of June 1. Bryan Cave will provide employees with up to 20 days per year of adult in-home care, such as an assistant to help an elderly person cook or shop or a nurse if medical care, such as injections, is required. Additionally, the Bryan Cave employee assistance programs will research nursing homes on behalf of an employee, matching the needs of their parent to at least three facilities with openings. “We can’t expect people to concentrate 100% on their job when they are worried their parents are sick or injured and alone, or they are trying to find the right long-term care,” Johnson said. ‘Productivity drain’ Roger Arlen, owner of the benefits consulting firm The Arlen Group, said the number of law firms offering elder care remains small, in part because few providers are available “We’re starting to see some of it, but I don’t think there is huge ramp-up,” Arlen said. “My feeling is there is a very significant need not being provided,” Arlen said. “The productivity drain is significant when employees are dealing with adult care issues.” Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker added the elder care benefit in March, and while no one has yet needed it, swarms of attorney and staff have registered for the program in expectation that they will, said Patricia Caudel, director of human resources and employee life programs at the firm. “When we think through what is needed to retain and attract top talent, the common denominator is taking care of family,” said Caudel. “When we rolled this out, I received tons of e-mails saying ‘Thank you, this has been on my mind for a long time,’ ” Caudel said. “ Baby boomers are going to work until they drop, our parents are living longer, and reconciling that so that we take care of them is a big concern.” Few distractions Kerkhoff, benefits manager at Hunton & Williams, said providing backup care for children, parents or any family member an employee is worried about saves the firm far more than the benefit program costs. “In the past 12 months, we’ve had 300 employee days saved with the program, about half of that being attorneys who needed child care help,” he said. “We don’t know is how much more productive people are who would be distracted but are not because they are getting help,” Kerkhoff added. “If you at the cost in terms of salary savings, it is a no-brainer.”

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