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FMLA To Care For Elderly Parents

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), enacted in 1993, often covers care for new members of the family, such as babies. However, it also extends to elderly or ill family members as well – giving caregivers some legal rights if they are in a position where they have to care for their elderly parents.

Caregiver’s Rights (The Family and Medical Leave Act)

In case you are not familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – It is a United States labor law that entitles employees (ones who are eligible) to take a period of paid time off from work so that they can take care of an elderly parent. 

The rights that the employee is entitled to are outlined in this 25 page PDF about the Family and Medical Leave Act (or FMLA) through the U.S. Department of Labor. 

This can occur anytime over 12 months and can last for approximately 12 weeks. During this sabbatical, the employee does not receive payment from their employer.

Certain jobs and roles prohibit participation in the FMLA. These include those who are considered “highly compensated” individuals, as well as elected officials like politicians.

Even if you can take the time off, there are still some restrictions that apply to private and public sector workplaces.  The FMLA rules would not apply to anyone with the following conditions:

  • If your place of employment has less than 50 workers
  • If you have not worked 1,250 hours in a year
  • If you haven’t been with your current company for at least a year

In these cases listed above, you wouldn’t qualify for the FMLA.

So if you were wondering if the FMLA covers caring for elderly parents the answer is YES but as we outlined above – there are some restrictions which may make you ineligible.

How To Apply For FMLA Leave

If you need to take time to care for an elderly parent and you determine that you qualify for FMLA leave you must provide your employer with at least 30 days notice.

Note that some employers may require that you use up any vacation time that you have accrued before you begin your FMLA leave.

Also, some employers may request a medical certification which states that your elderly parent requires care.  You can download this form here.

Examples Of Situations When You Could Request FMLA For Caring For Your Elderly Parent(s)

Following are some situations where an employee could request for FMLA leave:

  • If an elderly parent is suffering from a serious condition which keeps them from being able to care for themselves.
  • If the elderly parent is unable to travel the doctor or hospital as needed
  • If the elderly parent requires psychological comfort due to their serious condition

A friend of mine took FMLA leave to care for her father who was suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease and was unable to care for himself – requiring 24 hour care.

It’s important to remember that the FMLA leave is only up to 12 weeks – so it’s not indefinite.  And as many caregivers of elderly loved one know – their senior loved one can deteriorate for many years.

So, we do encourage you to take this time away from your work to look for a home care aide or consider how your elderly parent can continue to receive care after you return to work again.

If in home care is not possible, you may have to consider an assisted living or nursing home type of facility.

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