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Eldercare and the Family Medical Leave Act

Know your rights and take leave worry-free 

The costs for elder care are increasing as the number of aging adults requiring in-home care continues to rise. Many times, it is a family member who winds up providing in-home care; and, in some cases, this task is thrust upon the individual after an elderly parent or relative has an accident. An elder parent may fall and break a hip, which requires hospitalization and extended care. Other times, warning signs of the necessity for impending care occur gradually with the elderly person forgetting names or getting lost in familiar areas. The family may determine that it is no longer safe for the elderly relative to live without proper supervision and care. Therefore, the family may decide to shoulder the burden of providing in-home care. Whatever the situation or circumstance, elder care affects millions of Americans each year, and that number is predicted to steadily rise in the coming years.

"Elder care affects millions of Americans each year, and that number is predicted to steadily rise in the coming years."

When a son or daughter assumes the responsibility for the in-home care of an elderly parent, that adult child's entire life is affected, and the person's career is no exception. If an elderly parent has a serious health condition that requires the caretaker to miss work sporadically or for extended periods of time, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be able to provide some relief. The FMLA allows employees who have an elderly parent with serious health problems to take unpaid leave, and offers job protection. The FMLA states that the health problem, either physical or mental, must require in-patient care in a hospital, hospice or residential care facility, or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Under the FMLA, employees may take up to 12 weeks annually of unpaid leave to care for ailing family member, including elderly parents. While the FMLA does provide protections and financial security to employees, only 60%  of private sector employees are covered by and eligible for FMLA leave benefits. All public sector employees are covered.

As the population continues to age and more and more employees are faced with the duty of providing in-home care for an elderly parent, employees' expectations and needs for elder care benefits are likely to increase. Companies can expect the costs related to elder care benefits to continue to increase for the next several years.