Millions of people in this country are helping care for elderly family members, and the numbers are expected to increase as our population ages.
Too often, elderly loved ones who are ill and/or disabled would be better off living in a nursing home or assisted living facility with professional caregivers to look after them. However, the growing cost of these facilities often makes them unaffordable. The only viable option for seniors is often to live with relatives who provide the best care they're able to.
Even if a loved one doesn't require constant in-home care, they may have a medical condition or suffer an injury that requires a family member to take time away from work to drive them to doctor's appointments or care for them for a time after surgery.
It's essential to know if you have rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The purpose of this federal law is to allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of "unpaid, job-protected leave" each year for their own medical needs and/or those of a family member.
To qualify for FMLA leave, the person who's being cared for must have a condition that requires continuing medical treatment or in-patient care, whether in a residential care facility, hospice or hospital. The medical condition may be physical or mental.
While the FMLA doesn't mandate companies to pay employees for their FMLA leave, at least they have the legal assurance that they won't lose their job or their health insurance because they took necessary time away from their job to look after a family member.
Not all employees are eligible for leave under the FMLA. In fact, only 60 percent of those working in the private sector are eligible.
Before you seek time off to care for an elderly parent or another family member, find out if you're covered by the FMLA. If you are, it's essential to follow the process outlined by your company for seeking time off.
Unfortunately, too many employers either don't know their responsibilities to their employees under this law, or they don't abide by it. If you believe that your employer has violated your rights under the FMLA, it's wise to talk with a Bethlehem FMLA attorney to determine what your legal rights and options are.