It is a story as old as time. Our parents care for us when we are young. Many of us return the favor as our parents age. While it sounds simple in theory, that is seldom the case in reality, especially now as we find ourselves facing these uncertain times. In addition to Covid-19, one of the biggest challenges for millions of young caregivers is how to take care of their aging or ailing parents while juggling demanding jobs.
Did you know a recent estimate puts the number of unpaid caregivers in the United States at more than 40 million? The same estimate indicates that most of these family caregivers have difficulty coping with work and caregiving responsibilities. Unfortunately, there are two significant, but unintended consequences. The first is that a caregiver’s job performance often suffers, with work productivity dropping by at least 18 percent. The second is that these caregivers need to take time off from work, resulting in lost work hours valued at more than $25 billion.
Studies show that another, less reported, consequence of spending less time at work or quitting work to take on full-time caregiving responsibilities may include the loss of benefits. Examples of these benefits that are needed by young families may include not only a loss of a paycheck but health care insurance, company sponsored retirement plans, or all of it.
How can we help these families? In our firm, we work every day to help both Florida seniors and their adult children get the elder care support they need. In addition to what we recommend in our meetings, experts recommend the following to help young caregivers balance work and caring for a loved one:
- Create a family calendar to track relevant appointments, delegate chores and manage medication
- Seek support and guidance from your local agency on aging
- Review your employee handbook to see which if any policies apply to your situation.
- Try to limit caregiving tasks, such as scheduling medical appointments, to personal time as much as possible
- Arrange for a coworker to cover for you if you have to leave work suddenly when possible
As a caregiver and employee, it is important that you are open and honest with your employer. By speaking with him or her about your situation, you may be able to create a plan that works for everyone. During your conversation, be sure to ask about:
- When you can take paid or unpaid leave
- The possibility of flexible scheduling
- Job sharing
- Respite programs
- How to get help through Employee Assistance programs
Finally, be sure to ask your employer about your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. This is a federal law that allows certain American workers to take up to 12 weeks off of work per year. Under the law, eligible workers can do so without pay, but without risk of losing their jobs. To be eligible for time off under the FMLA, you and your employer must meet specific requirements. If you do not, all is not lost, however. You may have similar rights under applicable state laws.
We understand it may be difficult to have these conversations, so we are here to support you on this and any of your elder care concerns. Please do not wait until you feel completely overwhelmed to ask for help. Contact our law office to schedule a meeting with us today.