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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
My dad is going to need surgery and chemotherapy and I'm his family caregiver. I really want to care for him, but I work full time and don’t want to lose my job. Any suggestions?
The first thing you need to do is find out from the doctor what you can expect from the process so that you can plan out the time you will need to take. You need to understand what your dad’s recovery time will be after the surgery and what he can expect from his chemotherapy treatments. Also, ask his doctor to give you an idea as to what your father’s caregiving needs will be in each instance. Following his surgery, will your father need in-home health care or physical therapy? What tests and how many follow-up appointments will he need? As it relates to his chemotherapy, will there be side effects that require someone to be with him? How often will he receive treatments and for what duration of time? Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll have a better sense of the amount of time involved in his recovery and treatment.
The next step will be to sit down with other family members and friends to determine who can do what to help your father. Who can take him to which appointments? Who can make sure he has meals every day and receives his medications? Who can coordinate his care? Who is the point person in the family to talk to the doctors and nurses and report any symptoms that should be quickly addressed?
Once all of this has been decided, and if you are currently the primary family caregiver, you’ll have a good idea as to the amount of time you will need to care for your father and how this will affect your job. You might decide, for example, that it would make sense to take every Friday and Monday off for a three-week period. Or if you have no other family, then you may need to take off of work for four full weeks.
But, before you make the decision to become his full-time primary family caregiver, schedule a meeting with your employer’s Human Resources Department (and your supervisor) and share with them what your situation is and ask if they could assist you in developing a schedule to meet both of your needs. Be honest with them and yourself about what you realistically can do for both your dad and your boss. Don’t make your life so stressful that you can’t fully commit to being a caregiver and an employee without damaging your own health. Remain open to accepting help and hiring it when you need to.
There is a law, known as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which will protect you from losing your job when you need time to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, child or self). Employers with 50 or more employees must allow their workers at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member. To qualify, you must have worked for the company at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months. Your company must give you full health benefits during your leave and you are entitled to get your old job back or another position with equivalent duties and the same salary and benefits when you return. You can break up the 12 weeks worth of time as needed.
For more information about the FMLA go to the U.S. Department of Labor website at dol.gov (enter FMLA in the search bar) or call them at 1.866.487.9243. If your employer is not covered by FMLA because it has too few employees and you feel you are being discriminated against as a designated family caregiver, and not given accommodations to perform your job, then contact your state’s Human Relations Commission, as they may be able to assist you.
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