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Talking to Your Employer About Caregiving

By: Commonwealth Senior Living / 10 Sep 2018
Talking to Your Employer About Caregiving

The American Senior Housing Association provides a tremendous amount of helpful information for caregivers and families researching senior living options through their blog, Ageless Advice. The following post came directly from their site and addresses the issue of work/caregiving balance which so many families face.

"Im trying to be a good employee, but taking care of my mom at the same time is making it hard. I feel guilty leaving work for her appointments, but theres no one else to do it. Im stressed and worried that Ill lose my job."

Working daughters make up the bulk of family caregivers, and they're feeling the pressure. According to the Daughters in the Workplace North American Research Report, one in four working daughters:

  • Say their career growth has suffered because they're caregivers
  • Feel their supervisor is unsympathetic to their caregiver responsibilities
  • Believe there's a stigma associated with taking time off to be a caregiver

Whether you're a new family caregiver or a veteran, how can you talk to your employer about being a caregiver so you can get some support with balancing work and caregiving?

Start with HR

Ask your Human Resources department about the company's policies and programs that support caregivers. Some companies have resources to help you find community services, legal or financial assistance, caregiver support groups, counseling or respite care. They may also offer caregiving leave or flexible scheduling. If your company doesn't have any policies in place, they might be open to making some. Download this toolkit to help your employer learn how they can support their working caregivers.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are entitled to unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks per year without losing health benefits or job security so they can care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition. The law doesn't require companies to pay you during time off.

  • You can take those 12 weeks all at once or in smaller pieces.
  • To qualify, you must have worked for the company for at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months.
  • Companies are required by law to tell you your rights under FMLA, and if you qualify, to offer you leave.
  • Employers may not threaten you or make your work life harder because you request a leave.

It's important to note that companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from FMLA. And that means unless there are state or city laws in place, they're not required to make accommodations or give you any time off.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) allows for employees taking time off to care for a disabled parent to receive the same treatment as employees taking time off to care for disabled children. The ADA also offers protection against losing your job or harassment due to taking leave.

Talk to Your Supervisor

You may not feel comfortable sharing personal information with your supervisor, but they can be a great ally for you. Good bosses don't want to lose good employees, and many will work with you to find solutions.

  • Make notes about what you want to say and what you hope to get out of your conversation. It will help you stay on track and not leave out important points.
  • Be clear and realistic as you explain your caregiving role and how it's impacting your work-life balance.
  • Explain what you've been doing to try and juggle work and caregiving. Tell them what's worked and what hasn't.
  • Have some ideas about how you might proceed in ways that don't cost the company more money or time. These ideas are to start a longer conversation - there may be more than one way to achieve your goals.
  • Be flexible and willing to compromise. If a flexible work schedule isn't possible, perhaps a change in schedule or working from home one or two days a week is.

Look for Additional Support

If your parent needs more care than you can give and you still need to keep your job, it may be time to consider other resources.

  • Many senior living communities offer respite care for caregivers who need a break every now and then. Knowing your parent has a safe, caring place to go for a few days can let you focus on a big project or take a work trip.
  • If your parent lives out of town or a longer drive across town, consider bringing them closer to you. An assisted living or memory care community near you could provide the help they need while letting you be closer to them - cutting down on your travel time and easing your caregiving stress. Explore senior living options near you.

Being a caregiver is hard, especially when you work full-time. But having honest conversations with your employer can go a long way toward making life a little easier.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Northeast Business Group on Health


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