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Duke University Elder Care Consultations

Educational services
Large (20,000 or more)
United States
Dependent care
Employee Elder Care Consultation Service: This program provides Duke University’s employees and their family members a free, confidential elder care consultation.  Additionally, resources and support groups are provided for employees who have the responsibility of caring for an older relative.

Duke University Elder Care Consultations


Industry: Educational Services
Profit Status: Non-Profit
United States
Workforce Size:
34,863 employees

Dependent care

The business drivers for Duke University include:

  1. There had been an increase in requests for elder care assistance on the part of Duke employees.
  2. Larger numbers of Duke employees were using Family Medical Leave benefits to care for aging parents than for children.
  3. Work-life balance issues were affecting employees with elder care concerns.

Goals  & Objectives

  • Provide consultation and support for families facing a crisis or decision-making situation regarding their elder family member.
  • Provide individually tailored resources for employees caring for an older relative.

Project Highlights

The Duke University Employee Elder Care Consultation Service has been operating since 2000.  It was started as a pilot project in 1999 on the recommendation of a work-family advisory council.

Project Highlights of the Employee Elder care Consultation Service include:

  1. A free, confidential elder care consultation at their convenience at a central Duke medical campus location.
    • Any Duke employee or family member of an employee is eligible.
    • Consultations are done face-to-face, by phone or by e-mail according to the preferences of the employee.
    • Employees are contacted no later than 24 hours after they request a consultation.
    • Consultations are from 60 to 90 minutes in length with follow-up email information or telephone consultation as necessary or requested.
  2. The consultation staff also facilitates four ongoing support groups open to employees and the community.
  3. Employees are provided with presentations for employee groups as well as “lunch and learn” events.
  4. The Elder Care Consultation Service is staffed and supported by the Duke Center for Aging, including experts in geriatric social work, family caregiving and Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. In addition to the Elder Care Consultation Service, Duke’s HR department offers an array of related services to employees through the Personal Assistance Program (EAP).
  • Utilization averages about 115 unduplicated families per year.
  • Employee satisfaction questionnaires are uniformly positive.
  • Approximately 40% of employees who receive an elder care consultation continue on in one of the four ongoing support groups.
  • As an employer, Duke benefits from the Elder Care Consultation Service since it provides a reliable and high quality work-site service that assists the Duke employees, specifically those with eldercare responsibilities, in decision making and planning for the needs of their family member.
  • The fixed price allocated to fund the program is viewed by the HR professionals as a modest and efficient use of funds.
  • Ongoing marketing is conducted by the Human Resources Department and the Elder Care Consultation Service social workers.
  • New employees learn about the service during orientation, and articles about the consultation service are included in the employee newsletter.
  • Users are referred to the program by word-of-mouth from previous consultation users, by their managers, or by Duke Personal Assistance Program’s social workers.  They may also learn about the program during presentations to employee groups.
  • Surveys are distributed to users of the service two months after their consultation to assess satisfaction and outcomes of the service.  The surveys are modeled after those used in the Duke Personal Assistance (EAP) program.
  • Funding is through a fixed price annual contract with the HR Department, guaranteeing employee access at time of need for all employees who request the service.  The annual contract supports a portion of the salaries of the two-person staff.
  • The Elder Care Consultation Service’s social workers also receive funding (since 1984) from the North Carolina’s DHHS division; this funding enables the Elder Care Consultation Service to serve as a one-stop clearinghouse, crisis hotline and technical assistance center available to any North Carolina resident and thus to any Duke employee family caring for someone with memory disorders.
  • The state contract pays for a free newsletter and updated packet of information developed by the Consultation Service’s social workers.   The newsletter, The Caregiver, is the oldest continuously published family caregiver newsletter in the US.

Editor’s Note: The Sloan Center on Aging & Work recognizes that age is a multi-faceted concept. For a discussion of the aging experience, see our issue brief, Through a Different Looking Glass: The Prism of Age.  The innovative practices adopted by employers might address one or more than one of the different aspects of age.

The lessons learned include:

  • Word-of-mouth from employees who have used the service is just as useful in marketing the service as presentations and newsletters.
  • Ongoing marketing must be conducted to ensure utilization of the elder care program.
  • It is important to provide surveys to assess satisfaction and outcomes of the service.
  • Many employees have continued to stay in touch with the program staff, and sometimes return when facing a decision point for another family member.
  • Additional staff could be added in the future if demand increases, but for the present two staff members have been able to support the program.
  • Additional educational efforts and marketing could target employees in remote locations.
  • Special materials and presentations are being developed related to juggling work and elder care.

Duke University’s Employee Elder Care Consultation Service has been recognized in a feature article in the WORKING @ DUKE magazine, September 2013. See

For additional information, contact The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College:

Copyright ©2013 Boston College The Sloan Center on Aging & Work

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