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FMLA - getting a block of time vs. intermittent
LovingAwareness
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 8:56 AM
Joined: 6/3/2019
Posts: 138


Tolerable New Year to all!

I've had intermittent FMLA to care for Dad and his Alzheimer's for the last two years, but intermittent FMLA is not useful in getting a break from my workload. I already work from home and have flexibility in my job - what I need is workload reduction, so that I don't have to spend half or more of the day dealing with Dad and then exhaust myself by staying up until 3 in the morning finishing work - and the only way to get that is to take a week or more off as a block. Otherwise, case assignments are not reduced and I'm just expected to "fit it in" - which means working until 3 or 4 in the morning most weeknights. Unfortunately, my Dad's doctor does not understand the situation and thinks that intermittent should be sufficient. 

Has anyone successfully campaigned to get a block of time - four weeks, six weeks - off work for day-to-day Alzheimer's care for a LO who needs ADL assistance but is not in an emergency situation?

If Dad had an emergency - a fall, a hospitalization, a cancer diagnosis, hospice starting - I could apply for a block of time. But he is in a long, slow slog of decline, and it seems to external observers like we should have our routine worked out and be able to arrange a care plan so that I would only need intermittent time. 

I'm on the verge of quitting the job out of exhaustion, but if I could get a block of time off, a few weeks, to rest, recharge, catch up on my own deferred healthcare needs and appointments, catch up on everything in my own and Dad's life that has been delayed - then I could probably kick the can down the road a bit longer and stick it out until the next turning point... just not sure how to arrange the block of time.

Has anyone ever gotten a reduced work schedule - gone part-time for a period? I don't think this would work in my situation, because there are no limits on the time we put in as salaried employees - we handle all the work that flows through, and if you have to work an 80-hour week, that's just how it goes. So if I somehow got approved as a half-time schedule with FMLA, it might mean I'd get to work 40 hours a week instead of 80. I can truly only work about 20. 

Just wondering, is it worth trying to stick it out a little longer through FMLA or should I just join the Great Resignation and walk?


ninalu
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 10:32 AM
Joined: 12/22/2018
Posts: 188


Hi LovingAwareness,

I had thoughts of resigning due to exhaustion from caregiving and work, too.... so I can relate. My opinion is that whether or not you can voluntarily leave depends on many personal factors including how much time you need, how much of a nest-egg you have, your ability to pay out of pocket for health insurance, your ability to easily find work again when you need it, etc. 

Given the known relationship between caregiving and caregiver health, however, I wonder if you should have a frank discussion with your own doctor and solicit support for your own medical leave. The schedule you describe does not sound sustainable and if that's what you've been doing, your doc may be able to help you secure a medical leave that is a better arrangement than leaving entirely. So much depends on the type of benefits your employer offers and what kind of manager you have. I've also heard of people taking lump sum vacation time or sick time to get a break as caregivers during these last couple years. 

Best to you!


Quilting brings calm
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 10:46 AM
Joined: 10/16/2020
Posts: 1107


What you actually need is someone to explain to your employer what intermittent FMLA is.  Have you parked yourself in your HR area and asked them about the fact that all your boss is doing is shifting your work hours not reducing them?  Because I don’t think what your boss is doing is living up to either the spirit or the law for FMLA. Possibly a call to the state Fair Labor Board just to get an explanation of intermittent FMLA to give to your HR department 

I had FMLA in 2019 and 2020.  First a block of time and then intermittent.  I finally retired early at the end of 2020 because the stress of working in addition to everything else was too much.  I could never predict my work schedule because I was caring for more than one person and my schedule changed on a minutes notice.  And that was with actually reducing my work hours when I took a day or afternoon of FMLA as needed. 

 


LovingAwareness
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 11:38 AM
Joined: 6/3/2019
Posts: 138


Hi Ninalu, thank you. How did it work out for you - did you stick it out in your job - are you still working? 

The part that it is hard to explain to anyone who hasn't done Alzheimer's care is that even "normal" or routine caregiving changes day to day. Every day there are new twists and dips to figure out. There is no dependable routine with Dad. Work is likewise never normal. I'll think I have everything under control and then suddenly a short-term assignment is dropped in the middle of it and blows everything up. It's the nature of the work, and it is just a bad mixture with caregiving.

I can't afford to retire but could afford to take a couple years off and can get health insurance, assuming the Affordable Care Act is not overturned in the future. Getting back into the job market in your fifties is not ideal. But I have long experience in a specific job function that is hard to keep staffed precisely because of the work/life balance issues mentioned - sales proposal writing and project management. I think the skill set would allow me to get back in if I were out for a year or two.   

I don't have a doctor to talk with about FMLA. I haven't been for a checkup in about four years, and in the meantime the primary doctor I was seeing left the practice. I never followed through on my preventive - I have had "schedule mammogram" and "schedule colonoscopy" on my to-do list for four years. Dad's needs and issues multiply like mushrooms and always get pushed to the top of the list. 

Everything inside me says just quit and be done with it, but I don't want to look back and wish I had used the resources available - FMLA, or even negotiating a layoff and severance pay. I've been with this company almost 18 years and they're a highly profitable public company, so I should probably negotiate an exit, rather than just quit. But I don't know how to do it. I really wish I could just take a break until Dad's situation resolves. It would be better for me and better for the company, as they are chronically understaffed and can't keep people in this function. But it just doesn't work that way. 


LovingAwareness
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 11:49 AM
Joined: 6/3/2019
Posts: 138


Thanks Quilting, I hope you were ready to retire when you did. Your situation sounds untenable. I can't imagine doing this for more than one person. 

When you got your FMLA block of time, as opposed to the intermittent - how did you go about that? Had something changed or become more acute for one of your carees? How did you justify your claim for the block of time to care for dementia LO? I'm just trying to figure out how to justify it for "routine" caregiving when nothing has really changed since I originally applied for intermittent FMLA except the fact that decline, ADLs and communication are just getting overall harder and more time-consuming...

My boss is great - I love her. But the problem is that our department is so understaffed. I support sales, and there is simply no turning off or dialing down the spigot of work that comes at us. More than half of our team has quit during the pandemic, so I am one of a very few experienced people left. The new people are in a steep and long learning curve, so I am helping coach and mentor them as well as handling my own work. Plus I get the more complex work that the new people can't handle yet. People I trained two and three years ago are now quitting for greener pastures, and I can't do that because of Dad. Go somewhere new, jump into a new learning curve and explain to my new bosses and coworkers why I have to bail on a meeting and go clean up a bathroom mess? It wouldn't work. At any time, I have a queue of proposal cases that have non-negotiable draft and ship dates, and when a new case comes in it gets assigned. There is no consideration of PTO days or FMLA days. The deadlines are the deadlines, and they have to get done. If I call in for FMLA, somebody on the team who is already on the ledge gets my work dumped on them, and it takes them twice as long to come up to speed and figure it out as it would for me to just finish it. The department is perpetually trying to staff up, but it can't keep ahead of the departures. It's not that they don't understand FMLA, it's that they have no wiggle room in the assigning and staffing - less than no wiggle room. 

I think that unless I can figure out a way to get a block of FMLA I am going to need to negotiate out of this and just hope for the best as far as how long I'll be jobless. 


mommyandme (m&m)
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 12:00 PM
Joined: 2/16/2020
Posts: 664


I’m sorry for your struggle!  Would it be at all possible to hire caregivers intermittently to give you some time that you desperately need too?
Quilting brings calm
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 12:27 PM
Joined: 10/16/2020
Posts: 1107


Loving- 

My block of FMLA came at the beginning. My parents were living out of state and my mom had a medical crisis. First my spouse and I went down there for a long weekend. Unhelpful medical people misdiagnosed her as having delirium from a recent move from an RV to independent living.  Then my sister went there for a couple weeks since she was off on disability. Mom got worse. Then  my spouse and I had to make an emergency trip where they were.  We spent 9 days  there trying to deal with unhelpful medical people and getting movers to move my parents where we were. The only help I got down there from doctors was getting one to fill out an emergency FMLA for me.  He requested it her backdated to my first day off to drive down there,  wrote down that mom needed to be placed in a nursing home and I would then need to visit her weekly and deal with her needs, doctor appointments, etc . Once we got Mom back we took her straight to an ER. She spent  a week in the hospital with urosepsis and then was moved to rehab.  Once she went to rehab, I went back to work and my  FMLA switched to intermittent. My parents moved to assisted living.  A year later I got it renewed, plus I got intermittent FMLA for my step dad for his physical issues, treatments, etc.  Both of them have  numerous  doctor appointments that I transport them to and attend and have had ER and hospital stays since they moved back in state/ even during covid.

I have a spouse that is on disability and cannot drive after dark.  A son that has epilepsy and lives 4 hours from us.  I often had to take time off for them for doctor appointments.  I’ve never applied for FMLA for either of them, just took vacation or sick  time as needed 

So my situation is different when yours as I’m not a  24-7 caregiver for my parents. Plus my employer understood I was not making up intermittent FMLA hours.  So whatever time I took reduced my weekly work hours. 

I retired at 62 although  I wanted to work longer.  That reduced my already small pension and I’m delaying social security until full retirement age. We are living on  my pension, investments, and my spouses disability payments.  The time I need to give my parents, spouse, and son hadn’t been reduced, although at least I no longer have to deliver groceries to my parents.  Right now I am on an enforced break as I am recovering from a car accident. So I’m along doing phone calls. 

 


ninalu
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 12:48 PM
Joined: 12/22/2018
Posts: 188


Hi LovingAwareness,
I am still working, yes. I took time off to care for my health because I became too run down and it was affecting the quality of my work. I knew that this would be damaging to me and my career in the long-term. 

Speaking with an Employment Lawyer may be useful for you - especially if you find it difficult to understand all the benefits to which you're entitled (including workplace accommodations) and/or secure the actual FMLA benefits in a culture that is very demanding and high-performing. When I was in a similar position to you, I was too tired to think through what would be best for me and far too tired to read lots of medical/legal documents outlining benefits. Exhaustion-thinking, I started to call it. In my exhaustion thinking, the easiest thing to do, the fastest pathway to relief was to resign. Securing benefits takes effort and effort can be hard when one is bone-tired. 

I feel for you. I hope you find a way to get the rest you need as soon as possible. {}


yarnball
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 1:09 PM
Joined: 7/9/2017
Posts: 27


You sound like a dedicated and loyal employee who is expected to do more than the stated job.  Unless you are in a supervisory role, it is your manager's responsibility to deal with the staffing issues.  No one, FMLA or not, should be expected to cover staffing shortfalls forever. 

When I had intermittent FMLA after a block of FMLA, my manager understood that I was going to have to be off for medical issues as they came up.  None of it was scheduled as on any given day, I might be sick and unable to work.  Or, I'd be at work and need to leave.  I also had to use my vacay/sick time to cover the absence until I ultimately was in a no-pay status.  HOWEVER, FLMA protected my job!  I could not be terminated due to absence, etc.  Wondering how your FMLA is handled. 

 I also am an exempt employee and some of my tasks were reduced and/or transferred to others.  My job, however, is not life or death so a missed deadline is not the end the world.  I suspect your work is not life or death either ... you are just a responsible employee who has always had excellence performance. I have wonderful employees and I have always told them not to work off the clock to finish tasks because then management thinks your team is getting it all done with fewer staff when, really, it's dedicated people holding it together. 

You don't know when there will be a crisis that requires you to immediately stop working and help your LO.  The "unknown timing" of it is what makes it "intermittent".  I hope you can have a conversation with your management and/or HR so that, as was said above, you are all on the same page regarding the spirit and intent of FMLA.  In my opinion, this is not a great time to leave a secure job as who knows what 2022 will bring!


Victoria2020
Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2022 2:29 PM
Joined: 9/21/2017
Posts: 1364


One person can't do two jobs that each are more than one job at a time.

If you like your job and benefits then I'd look for outsourcing what another can do under your supervision -the care giving - and not destroy your career and financial future.

Sure there is a legal path  to consider  but that really adds a third highly stressful role to your roster--and frankly the employers lawyers have many ways to show they tried to make "reasonable accommodations" but the open ended time frame was too stressful on the bottom line.

Most of these suits don't end with you getting a better schedule- they end up with a quiet payoff or more likely dismissal or you have to abandon it for cost and stress reasons.

Instead of hoping the employer can provide the buffers, I'd step back and plan where and how you'll be doing the care giving at the future stages that enable you to stay healthy and employed  along the way. 

 


Linda_Miami
Posted: Sunday, January 2, 2022 9:27 AM
Joined: 1/22/2013
Posts: 289


Hi there.

Ive done both.  3 month FMLA and intermittent.  It was always my decision and not the doctor's or company I work for.  I always filled out the FMLA forms and just asked the doctor to sign.  Frankly I think he was happy that I filled out the form for him and all he had to do was sign.  How was he to know how much time off I needed?  I cant believe your dad's doctor is being so difficult!!!  Is it the neurologist or his GP?  Maybe try a different doctor.

I would also get a new form, fill it out according to your father's current needs and your needs, and ask the doctor (preferably a different doctor) to sign.  Tell him that your father's needs have increased!!  Be polite but dont accept no for an answer.

I am currently on intermittent FMLA and I am also starting to feel like it is not enough.  I am out frequently.  And like you said, my work is not assigned to someone else while I am out.  It is waiting for me when I return.  That creates added stress as I feel like I am always behind.  Luckily, I am not expected or required to work more than 37.5 hours per week.  If I could afford to, I would DEFINITELY resign for the sake of my health.  I am 52 and pretty confident I could get another job, maybe even my old job, back when my caregiving duties are over.  

Let us know what you decided.  But please take care of yourself.

   

 


​fesk
Posted: Sunday, January 2, 2022 5:23 PM
Joined: 1/11/2013
Posts: 192


This is a timely topic for me. I'm trying to decide how to use FMLA for my situation. Has anyone ever been able to use FMLA to reduce their weekly hours? Can FMLA be used that way? 

m&m brought up hiring caregivers. That's actually why I need to take leave. I cannot find reliable caregivers. There is a shortage. It seems that you either need to tolerate caregivers that aren't skilled or are on their phone all day paying no mind to their responsibilities or, if you do find a good one, put up with them changing their schedule and calling out frequently. It's very frustrating.


LovingAwareness
Posted: Monday, January 3, 2022 1:24 PM
Joined: 6/3/2019
Posts: 138


Thank you all for your responses and advice! I got so busy with Dad the past couple of days, and then I came back to see that so many good advice fairies had visited to help me think through this FMLA/quit choice... once you've been in the situation of having a VP of Sales bark out changes for a proposal into your headset while you are actually upstairs trying to cajole your stubborn father into taking off his pants to put on a fresh pair of Depends, and then suddenly the blah-blah-blah on the headset goes silent and you realize you were off mute when you said, "Did you have a poo yet today or do you need to sit for a while?" - you just know something has to change... This is a long reply to multiple people...

Quilting - what a long, hard road you have been on. You Mom and step-Dad, spouse and son all needing your help. I can't even imagine. Thanks for answering my question about how you used the continuous/block FMLA - it sounds like it was needed for your Mom's crisis but intermittent FMLA and PTO covered things as well as could be expected otherwise. I think that's how FMLA generally goes, with intermittent used for day-to-day needs. I'm so sorry you were in a car accident - a speedy and complete recovery to you. 

Ninalu - our situations sound so similar. What you said about "exhaustion thinking" really struck a chord in me. Fighting for benefits will just be another thing to do and more (self-imposed) stress. I have the savings for a couple years, I have a free place to live for now, and I can get an ACA health plan. Maybe I should just let it go and don't be greedy - quit and be done with it for a while - leave on good terms so they (or another company) will want to take me back. I feel like you and others who commented have helped me clarify this. Why stretch this process out when I am at the breaking point? I leave and go do what I need to do to take care of my family and self, and my company can move forward without me, rather than my making myself a problem for them, which is a bad career move, and the career is the more valuable asset in the long run.  

Thanks LindaMiami, for your perspective on how I should better own the application process. Start with a new application - you are right - I've been renewing it for a couple of years now, but Dad's needs have increased. If I can get intermittent for three-day breaks (the maximum allowed for intermittent, I think), rather than the currently approved arrangement for one-day breaks, then that might have the effect of getting work reassigned rather than just delayed. But it will still be a royal pain for the people who assign the work and my poor coworkers who would get dumped on. It might be better to just leave. It sounds like we share some confidence that we could both get our jobs back. I so dread interviewing and arranging references two or three years from now - the world moves so fast and it is so hard to keep up with technology changes even with the support and training the company offers. I worry that a couple years from now I'll be a dinosaur if I don't hang on now. So many conflicting feelings...

Victoria, thanks for the advice - I think I hear you saying take care of myself first and don't give up a good career for caregiving. That career ship has sailed - I'm in a dead-end (though good, salaried, exempt) job for the past 11 years while I helped first my Mom through PSP and now my Dad through Alzheimer's. If I can somehow hang on until Dad is released from his disease without ruining my own health, I could possibly advance, but I don't have any passion for it anyway. I'd like to say I could use the time away from work to explore other options like freelance, learn to code!, volunteer with local non-profits to position myself for a career move! - but who am I kidding? If I quit work, Dad will dominate my existence, there will still be mind-boggling amounts of daily laundry to do, and there will still be no time for me. I realize that, but I don't really know what else to do. We can't place Dad or hire more help right now (more below) - I feel like my choice is either try to keep going with some FMLA rearranging, or I give up the job.  

M&M - I appreciate your suggestion to hire more help. Budget and.. scheduling. I used to have an aide prior to the pandemic. Now I get help during work hours from my brother, who even cooks dinner a couple/few night a week. There is no way I would still be working without Bro - but he works intermittent/non-scheduled freelance jobs, and those are the really tough days, when he is working, and it's just me and Dad (and I always seem to have a work crunch/deadline and multiple meetings on those days too...) Plus I have to stop at dinnertime and can't work again until I get Dad to bed, i.e., after midnight. And there are frequent workday interruptions for Dad situations, even if Bro is here. I'm still the "chosen one" who Dad shadows, so I can never fully disconnect from him unless he is at daycare or asleep. 

Dad also goes to daycare for five hours a day, three days a week (he could go for full day, but we can't get him awake and there much before noon) - and it's $2,000/month since he moved to the higher-level group, so we can't afford to hire any additional help at the house. We're not giving up daycare - it's great for him. And that time would be perfect for me to get things done, except... work.

But the scheduling is the main thing- the agencies require a minimum of hours (I think it was 24 hours a week), which is more than we can afford - 2K for daycare plus 3K for in-home help leave no money for food, and since both my Bro's and my own work demands fluctuate with little notice, if I scheduled help I would end up with help when I didn't need it, and no help when I did need it. 

Yarnball, thanks for the advice about being more assertive with my management. I work in proposals, so a deadline is a deadline. If we miss the deadline, we miss the bid, and the company misses revenue. People who miss even one deadline in the job get put on corrective action and fired pretty fast. Which gives me an idea... but no, better to just quit and hope to get hired back someday. 

Fesk... good luck hiring help. I think it's tough market right now. I wish I could send you the person I used to have - she was as good as it gets. Dad still hated her. I hope you find someone great. 

So, I'm going to quit, I've about decided. I think in the final analysis, aggressive use of FMLA will just make things harder on my work group and eff up my chances of getting hired back someday. I can't retire, but I have the savings for a break. I'm scared of inflation drying up my retirement savings, I'm scared the ACA will get overturned and I'll be without health insurance... I'm scared of many things about cutting the cord, but I think I have to. I might do a hail mary and ask my boss if they can keep me on on a contract basis, where I could fill in sometimes and smooth out the rough patches in the team's workload. I doubt that will work, but I might ask. Thank you all for your input and help. Good luck to you all, as it sounds like more people are in this situation right now...


LovingAwareness
Posted: Friday, January 14, 2022 8:48 AM
Joined: 6/3/2019
Posts: 138


Last night I asked my mother (who is gone) to send me guidance - do I leave the job and be fully attentive to ensure Dad's needs are met, or should I hang on employed just a little longer? 

I woke up with the word "John" on my lips. After considering that maybe Mom meant to ask our neighbor John, I realized that, no, this meant I had to consult the Bible, which is not something I typically do, as I'm pretty much an atheist or at least highly agnostic. But since Mom seemed to be encouraging it, I looked:


My Father’s house has many rooms; 

“Come now; let us leave. "

Many rooms, I just find this sentence incredibly comforting as it rolls around my mind, just a lovely piece of calming poetry that assures expansiveness, but it was that last line that really got me. "Come now; let us leave." 

I think it's time. Mom sent me there. Asked and answered. Thanks, John! Thanks, Mom!


Victoria2020
Posted: Friday, January 14, 2022 2:02 PM
Joined: 9/21/2017
Posts: 1364


Suggest you rerun the numbers for your retirement plan [income/outgo] and use a higher per cent  inflation figure than you did before, even if the rate slows, the current prices rarely if ever retreat .

Today's exhaustion would be nothing compared to    years    of being cash crushed. Getting a job interview in say 5 years from someone decades younger realistically won't be easy. Let alone a job offer, just being realistic.

Just be sure it truly pencils out.

 

 


 
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