When you find yourself in the new role of a family caregiver, it is easy to become overwhelmed with your new set of responsibilities.
No matter if you have invited your older loved one to live with you, if you provide regular hands-on assistance, or if you are coordinating appointments from hundreds of miles away, caring for a family member adds many tasks and worries to your already full to-do list.
There is good news, though. More and more companies are realizing the need for caregiving resources for their employees.
With the right approach and the right information, you can ask for time off or support as you take care of yourself, your family, and your professional obligations. Here’s what you need to know.
When you hear the phrase FMLA, or Family Medical Leave Act, you might think of unpaid time off for maternity or paternity leave.
However, the Family Medical Leave Act doesn’t just cover new moms or dads. You can use FMLA time to leave your job in order to care for an aging loved one.
The time you take away from work through FMLA is unpaid, but your employer is required to hold your job during your leave and keep your health care insurance enrollment. You can take up to twelve weeks off annually.
Depending on your employer, you might be able to be paid for some or all of your time away spent as a caregiver. Here are some tips for starting that conversation:
Most companies or organizations want to support employees who are working full-time or part-time while balancing work and elder care. You can take advantage of leave policies in order to ensure your own well-being, but you just might need to plan ahead as well as ask your supervisors for support.
If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program or EAP, as a part of their benefits package, now is the time to start to use it.
An EAP often offers mental health resources, including therapy, and can include dedicated family caregiver support, which can be vital for working caregivers. EAP providers can vary in their benefits, so be sure to learn more about your specific plan.
Be sure to contact your EAP to begin taking advantage of this often-overlooked benefit for employee caregivers. If your company doesn’t have an EAP, talk to your Human Resources representative to see if they can find a way to add it to your employee benefits package.
In order to help with employee retention and morale, many large and small companies have tried to find ways to support family caregivers in their workforce.
However, most companies tend to focus on parents who are working while juggling child care. Companies often forget there are family caregivers who are caring for an older loved one who might be living with a physical health condition or cognitive impairment.
Speak up for your own wellness and tell your team when you need additional support.
Here are some benefits or resources that are not always highlighted in company meetings or benefits folders that you might be able to add to your family caregiver toolkit.
Examples of some resources can include:
If you work in a smaller organization, you might be the first family caregiver to ask for flexible hours or more support. Be patient with your employer and honest about your situation as you work together in order to find a solution that keeps you both happy.
Finding a positive “work-life balance” is quite difficult when you add in caregiver responsibilities.
However, it is imperative that you access the support and resources you need to avoid caregiver burnout and the health complications that often accompany it.
The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that caregiver health is put at risk due to the extra emotional and physical strain of caregiving tasks.
If you are physically or mentally unwell, you are unable to care for your loved one. In addition, you'll be unable to fulfill the rest of your personal and professional obligations. It is worth it to have a conversation with your supervisor to find a solution that keeps you feeling your best.
Haley Burress is a senior care and caregiving expert. She worked in senior care for more than 15 years before writing for senior care agencies and professional caregivers full-time. She has experience in Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted Living, Independent Living, and Memory Care as well as Adult Day services and home care.
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