Interview with Nicole Dever, Work Life Coordinator, Alston & Bird

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Can you tell me a little about your firm (size, practice areas, etc.)?

Nicole: Alston & Bird is a leading U.S. law firm providing legal counsel to major corporations throughout the world.? We are hired to find solutions to complex problems ' whether they relate to securing financing for a strategic acquisition or expansion, resolving a tax controversy with the IRS, defending a bet-the-company lawsuit, or securing intellectual property patents necessary to protect vital business assets.? Our practice areas encompass just about anything a business deals with and follow four major lines of service: corporate and finance, litigation, intellectual property and taxation. While Alston & Bird has clients in virtually every business segment, the firm is particularly strong in the health care, telecommunications, financial services, energy, transportation and manufacturing segments.? We represent a number of clients in education, chemicals and the biotechnology segments as well. Our 800 attorneys are in nine major markets, representing world-class companies such as UPS, The Dow Chemical Company, Bank of America, Delta Air Lines, Inc., Aflac Incorporated, Nokia, The Prudential Insurance Company of America and Twentieth Century Fox.

What factors contributed to your decision to offer elder care to your employees?

Nicole: Our philosophy of work-life benefits is to enhance the Firm's sense of family and caring for our employees.? One of our key objectives is to assist our lawyers and employees in achieving a successful balance between their work life and their home life.? Our approach is to recognize four key areas for each individual ' work, family, community and self.? We develop and enhance benefits following those four paths, and we work to reach beyond the expected benefits you see most law firms offering. The importance of providing the best work-life solutions for employees was made clear more than fifteen years ago when child care rose to the top of the list of concerns.? We addressed the needs of our employees by offering back-up care options in all our office locations and opened our full-service child care center in Atlanta in 2001.? More recently, as the baby boomer generation is aging, elder care concerns are now at the forefront.? We've had a resource and referral program in place for many years that addressed long-term elder care needs, but we were thrilled with the opportunity to provide a short-term, back-up care solution.

Do you have a sense of what percentage of your employees are caring for aging parents?

Nicole: We've never surveyed our employees to ascertain an exact number, but through anecdotal stories, we know it is a concern for a large percentage of our employee population.

Do you think that employees are reluctant to talk about the stress they may experience when caring for an aging parent?

Nicole: Absolutely; we established a caregiver's support group for that very reason.? The group meets each month and is for any employee dealing with a difficult situation including the loss of a loved one or caring for sick and elderly family members.? The group is confidential and is facilitated by an elder care specialist from our resource and referral service.

What impact has the elder care program had on employee morale and absenteeism?

Nicole:People are excited when they find out we have an in-home care option and are absolutely thrilled when they find out how inexpensive it is.? The BUCA program provides our employees with peace of mind knowing their loved ones are being cared for while they are at work.? The program's utilization rate has been great.? Because it is so affordable, people even use it when they could possibly get away without using help.? There are middle of the road situations where the elder might be okay left by themselves, but employees decide to use the service just in case.? I've included a story below that describes such a situation.? Sue's mother was at her sister's home recovering from a fall.? After the first few weeks at home, she probably would have been okay left by herself, but they decided to use an extra week of care just in case.? It turned out to be the best decision they've ever made (we shared this story at one of the Bright Horizons client conferences).

My name is Sue Wynn and I am the HR Secretarial Manager in the Atlanta office of Alston & Bird.? Last October, my world turned upside down when my 74 year old mother fell and broke her pelvis at a wedding reception.? She spent one week in the hospital followed by three weeks at a rehab facility.? She was unable to walk or get out of bed on her own.? Each day she spent at the rehab facility was more depressing than the day before.? At most, they would work with her for one hour per day.? The rest of her day was just spent in bed.? She needed more attention than what the facility was able to provide. During her stay at the rehab center, we found out that her insurance would not cover any in-home care like we thought.? My mother lives with my sister, but we both work and were not able to stay home with her every day.? We couldn't leave her home alone because she still couldn't get out of bed by herself.? When my coworker told me about the BUCA program, I was thrilled.? It was exactly what we needed.? I went online and registered her that same day.? The call center specialist asked me about my mom's personality to make sure the caregiver would be a good fit.? The caregiver they selected called my sister and me the day before her first visit to answer any of our questions and make sure we were comfortable.

We used the service for three to four weeks.? My mother loved her caregiver, Kofo, and her back-up caregiver, Elizabeth, who would come on days Kofo was unavailable.? Both women would help my mother get out of bed, bathe, and get dressed and also helped her do some rehab exercises.? They would call me during the day and give updates of how my mother was doing.? One afternoon, Elizabeth noticed some changes in my mother's behavior.? She dropped her glass of water and had difficulties signing her name.? Elizabeth recognized this as a possible stroke and immediately notified us to come home.? She stayed with us as we waited for the ambulance to come - long after she was scheduled to go home for the day.? The next day, she called to check on my mother.? I can't imagine what would have happened if she wasn't there to notify us.

My mother is back to her old self these days, although moving slower now than before she fell.? I am so thankful for the service and the companionship Kofo and Elizabeth provided to my mother.? From the first phone call to the last, Bright Horizons was so helpful and caring to my family.

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About the Author
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Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
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