Question: My mother has been diagnosed with dementia. At this time, I would prefer to be her caregiver. Can I use FMLA leave to care for her?
Answer: In general, you can use FMLA leave to care for a parent with dementia if you meet the requirements of eligibility. To answer this question in more depth, we have covered the basics of FMLA leave, as well as the three core areas of eligibility that must be met.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Basics
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives the right to an eligible employee to take up to 12 workweeks of job-protected unpaid leave to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition.
A parent is defined by FMLA as the biological, adoptive, step, or foster parent of an employee or an individual who provided care to the person when they were a child.
The employee may be entitled to FMLA leave to care for the parent even if a legal or biological relationship does not exist, as long as the person qualifies based on the FMLA’s definition of a parent.
The three core areas of eligibility for FMLA leave are:
1) Criteria that Applies to You (The Individual Taking Leave From Employment):
Who can take FMLA leave?
In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, an employee must:
- Work for a covered employer
- Have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave
- Work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles
- Have worked for the employer for 12 months. The 12 months of employment are not required to be consecutive in order for the employee to qualify for FMLA leave. In general, only employment within seven years is counted unless the break in service is (1) due to an employee’s fulfillment of military obligations, or (2) governed by a collective bargaining agreement or other written agreement.
2) Criteria that Applies to the Individual Who Requires Care:
- Must be an immediate family member of the individual (i.e., a parent – but not a parent “in-law”) diagnosed with a serious health condition.
3) Criteria that Applies to Your Employer:
The FMLA applies to all:
- Public agencies, including local, state, and Federal employers, and local education agencies (schools)
- Private sector employers who employ 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year – including joint employers and successors of covered employers.
If you have additional questions, please visit FMLA Frequently Asked Questions for more details.
Full-Time Caregiving: Where Do I Go from Here?
We know that you want to provide the best care possible for your parent.
You are dedicated to supporting your loved one – the one that was there for you when you were the one in need as a child.
We want to see you succeed in giving this care, but 12 weeks of FMLA may not be enough.
How can you continue caregiving beyond the 12 weeks?
If you can afford to do so, and if your employer is in agreement, consider dropping your work status to part-time and use respite care to cover the hours when you are at work.
If your loved one is in the very early stages of dementia, you may be able to continue working full-time and provide part-time caregiving.
This is a tough situation, however, caregiving by itself (without being employed elsewhere) can be taxing on a person.
It requires you to pay close attention to their own well-being.
You must take care of yourself first!
At a minimum, always ask yourself these basic questions:
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Am I eating regular well-balanced meals?
- Am I able to take small breaks?
- Is my health holding up?
24-Hour Caregiving and Moving to Memory Care
As your loved one’s dementia progresses, be aware of the signs that it may be time for 24-hour care.
The top signs that 24-hour care is needed circle around your loved one’s safety, as well as a decline in social and mental state, and a marked decrease in self-care.
Learn more at our blog, At What Point Do You Need 24 Hour Care with Dementia?
The day may come when you consider moving your loved one to memory care.
Remember, this never means that you are a failure as a caregiver.
Specialized care can be essential to your loved one’s quality of life and safety.
Compile a list of concerns and questions to better understand if a specific community will be a good fit for your loved one.
Check with family members, friends, and even the attending physician to give input and recommendations, while keeping your loved one’s personality and lifetime habits in mind.
To help you out if you are considering memory care, we have suggested 21 questions on our blog, Questions to Ask to See if Memory Care is Right for Your Loved One.
We Are Here to Help
Whether it be a few hours a day or a few days a month, we offer a dynamic Respite Program to give caregivers a needed and welcome break.
We would love to answer any of your questions and talk with you about your respite needs.
If you are in or plan to be in the Round Rock or North Austin, Texas area, we are here to help you! Contact us online or call us at 512-399-5080.