All home caregivers work: taking care of another person is working, whether one is paid for it or not. Those home caregivers who also maintain employment outside the home, however, often face special challenges.
For example, caregivers must often take time off from work to take loved ones to medical appointments or physical therapy. Emergencies may come up in the middle of the day and may necessitate unplanned absences.
If you are a home caregiver who works outside the home, here are a few important tips to consider:
- Find out if there are any federal, state or local laws that may relate to your caregiving situation. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be of interest to you. Under the FMLA, an employee can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time in order to care for a member of the immediate family. (That 12 weeks does not have to be all at one time.) If caring for a covered military service member, a person may take up to 26 weeks of leave. FMLA does not apply to all situations; for example, private employers with fewer than 50 employees are not obligated to follow FMLA. More information on FMLA is available here.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may also be of aid if you are caring for an individual with a disability. For example, if your company allows employees to take time off in order to take care of sick children, the company must also allow you time off to take care of an immediate family member with disabilities.
- Some state or local laws may also cover aspects of medical leave or similar situations. The Human Resources department of your company can provide information on any such laws in your company’s area.
- Be proactive. If it is clear that caregiving responsibilities are likely to become more challenging, approach your boss in advance and with a detailed plan. It’s much easier for a boss to respond positively if you can present a plan that addresses likely issues. For example, if Father is going to have a standing physical therapy appointment every week, try to arrange it as early in the morning as possible and come up with a strategy that demonstrates how you will make up for the time lost from work: working late or coming in early on certain days, perhaps, or bringing your laptop with you to the therapy sessions and telecommuting.
- Demonstrate your commitment. If your boss is wary of what will happen if you are not in the office for your entire required weekly hours, make sure that you go above and beyond the call of duty to show that you can be a productive worker away from the office. Return any calls or emails as soon as possible. Keep a record of all the work that you have accomplished. Copy the boss on appropriate emails that you send from home so that he or she has a visual reminder of what you are doing.
Home caregivers are often the most valuable employees a business has, and it is in an employer’s best interests to keep them on board. Demonstrating a willingness to work things out can benefit both you and your employer.