Can my boss force me to choose between my job and caregiving?


Q: My employer is pushing me to make a choice between working and caring for an elderly loved one. What should I do?

A: We have a crisis in this country, and most companies do not recognize it. I find this extremely interesting since more and more workers are caring for their aging parents.

I don't know how flexible your job is or how much time you are missing from work, but I can tell you that companies need to know that they can count on their employees being present. I know it's scary, but you might need to speak to your supervisor and explain the situation. Have a plan before you approach him or her. Be clear about how much time you need to miss from work each week; how and when you will make up the time; and what you are willing to do to help your company accomplish their goals if they will work with you to find some time to care for your parent.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a plan in place for all of your responsibilities. You need to be very clear about the illness or condition your loved one suffers from and exactly what you have to do for him or her.

You will have to ask yourself some tough questions. Are you willing to sacrifice some things so that you can hire an outside caregiver and relieve you of some of your responsibilities? Have you set up a support system of family and friends to help you? If you live near a college you can reach out to the nursing program or the geriatric program and see if they offer any services. Often students are willing to work for less money in order to gain hands-on experience and class credits. There is also senior daycare, which is often affordable and gives the senior an outlet for socialization.

So often we are afraid to approach our supervisors with honest and open conversation that we tend to sabotage ourselves in the process. Companies don't like surprises and they don't like numerous, unexpected absences. I'm not sure what your position is at your company, but you need to try and see this from the company's perspective. You know what your perspective is, so take some time and examine both sides before your speak to your supervisor. This is always a good idea in almost any situation.

Elder care is very much a part of our societal landscape and if you can present yourself as one who can help offer solutions to the problem for the company, instead of someone who is avoiding the problem, I have a hunch that you might become extremely valuable to them. Take a leap of faith and see if you can help your company grow. Become a valuable resource for them.

Cindy Laverty is a Caregiver Coach and Founder of The Care Company, an online support website for family caregivers. Through programs, coaching and products, Cindy is dedicated to empowering family caregivers.

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Soon after both of my parents developed dementia my siblings headed for the hills along with their offspring (all lived local).I worked full time and am a single male so they figured I should be the 'chosen' one to care for them.I worked 30 plus years for the same large company and at the time was working on a project for (3) 30 something snot nose punks who had no understanding whatsoever on the demands dropped in my lap.They did everything in their power to get me axed asap over the next three years.I survived by involving the guardinship attorney I hired to guide me with my folks care,filed for intermittent FMLA,and kept my cool and continued to do my job full time.I hired bonded and insured caregivers to care for my folks when I was working ( a mini nightmare ).It was not easy and my father passed away in a nursing home during this period because I could not handle both of them together at home full time.I was able to visit him almost every day along with my mother.It did him a lot of good and I never let them know the pressures being put on me at work.Lucikly I was finally put on a project managed by a man from the Philippines who is caring for his mom too after his dad passed.The country he comes from has high respect for their elders so he understood my situation.Work life became much more tolerable and I was able to care for my mother and keep my job until she passed away recently.Nothing ever went according to plan or was easy during those seven years but I felt my parents received the best care I could manage during those rough times.Families,employers,caregiving agencies,nursing homes are all huge stress factors but you should put the love for your folks first because that is what is most important.It is often a very lonely journey during and after the caregiving period because there is little reward in this society for caregivers and the dump and runs are usually full of guilt when it is over so they avoid any contact with you.Never let anyone wipe their boots all over you especially if they are taking advantage of your situation.Don't hesitate to involve a elder law attorney or the department of health for your state whenever the situation is getting out of hand.There are a lot of laws on the books to protect the rights of caregiver and your loved ones.Love is the strength that kept and keeps me going despite the toll placed upon my life.It was worth it in the end. Even after their passing I'm still fighting to right many wrongs that had taken place over the years so others hopefully have a less stressfull situation when their time comes to care for the ones who loved and cared for them.
I feel for you because that is what I was trying to avoid.FMLA only goes so far and many employers know all the loop holes to put you down when it may affect their bottom line profits.They talk a good game about how much they care about their employees and community but so much of it is nothing but PR.They wonder why then their employees are no longer loyal,esp.the younger ones when they see it happening to the 'old timers'?I worked my butt off for the same company for more than 30 years before my folks became ill but that was soon forgotten after I filed for FMLA.I used a lot of vacation,personal time but little FMLA yet they were still not happy with the situation.One person from another country made a change in my life otherwise I would of been gone too.It is a very pathetic situation when you try to do the right thing and end up suffering the negative consequences for doing so.Everything that goes around comes back around to bite you in the end and I believe that is part of what we are seeing in this country (USA) in regards to patriotic and corporate loyalty.
I was laid off due to caregiving. It was not stated, but I know I was taking alot of time off for my mom. Sad when I was doing such a great job.