“I will be in this afternoon. I just have an appointment again this morning. I have arranged for a substitute for this morning and should be in by 4th period.”
Kathy seems to make this phone call more and more lately. Kathy is a mother of two minor children and a caregiver for her husband who is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She is a high school special education teacher and as the breadwinner of her family, she’s not in the position to retire and care for him full-time.
Jim, Kathy’s husband, was diagnosed four years ago and over the past year, she has watched her once witty and brilliant husband plummet into the depths of dementia. He can no longer dress himself, make a sandwich or work our DVD player. He just cannot be alone anymore.
Kathy has hired a caregiver to be with Jim while she’s at work, but there are still times when he needs her to be there for him. As anxious as she was about talking to my supervisor about her husband’s diagnosis and her home situation, she is pleased to say that it went well and she’s learned a great deal about her rights and responsibilities as an employee. She found knowledge to be her greatest asset! A few tips are outlined below.
- Know your employee handbook: Taking the time to sit and read my employee handbook was time well spent. Reading about the company’s policies and procedures regarding sick and personal leave alleviated a great deal of stress. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the many benefits that they are entitled to. Taking advantage of benefits such as, Employee Assistance Programs that can provide limited mental health services at no charge can be a lifesaver in times of incredible stress or depression.
- Familiarize yourself with FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and can guarantee job protection during the leave. Knowing I have this option as my husband’s disease progresses gives me one less thing to worry about. For more information, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s page on FMLA.
- Make a list of topics of concern to discuss with your boss: Maybe it is the teacher in me, but I like to have my thoughts organized so I can clearly discuss what my concerns are and give my supervisor the opportunity to do the same.
- Choose a good time to talk: Knowing when to approach my supervisor was vital to making sure this conversation was comfortable and productive. I make sure that any time I need to discuss any issues related to my circumstances with him, I am in a calm and peaceful mood. I also make sure that the selected time is not right before he has to head out to a meeting or will be otherwise distracted.
- Ongoing communication: Keeping my employer appropriately informed of my ongoing situation has removed the stress of having “the big talk” every 6 months and also shows him, that while I am dedicated to my family, I also take great pride in my work and want to continue this working relationship. It also lets him know that I see the two of us as a team with a united goal.
Being a wife, mother, caregiver and teacher are the hats that Kathy wears on a daily basis. She relishes the roles played in the lives of her husband, children and students. Maintaining a good balance between work and home is necessary so that she may continue to touch the lives of others, be it at home or at school, is key to her happiness.
Have any additional tips? Share them with us below or on our Caregiver Forum.
We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior who could benefit from our vast array of home care services in the Fairfax area , please call us at 703.750.6644, or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff of trained and certified home care personnel covering the Fairfax County, Virginia area.