Caring for an aging spouse, parent, or relative can be an additional full-time job on top of a career and raising children. It’s very common, with 6 in 10 employees working on average 35 hours a week while providing some kind of care to a senior loved one.

Because the role of caregiving can impact a normal work-life balance, many employers are adopting policies to support their employees. Use these tips to help develop a plan that can address how your work life may be impacted by your role within your family.

5 Steps to Tell Your Boss About Caring for a Loved One 600

Make a list of your responsibilities. This list can act as a guide for your employer to understand how to best support your needs, such as switching hours your work, working remotely, or how to prioritize your body of work, if possible. It will also outline what types of resources are available.

Start the conversation as early as possible. Many caregivers don’t tell their employer about their role for various reasons, such as having concerns about job security, wanting to prove they can still perform, or showing they’re committed to the role so they can score the next promotion. In fact, only 56% of caregivers say their employee is aware of the responsibility.

However, ignoring that your daily routine is likely to change can cause undue stress and lead to caregiver burnout, which is a real condition that can affect both your health and the valuable care you provide to your loved one.

Ask what existing policies are available. You may be surprised to learn of the options available to caregivers. Most employers already have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides information, community resources, or information about leave programs.

Employers with more than 50 employees must comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to offer employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a seriously ill parent or spouse. As part of this, your job is secure and your health insurance is maintained. Paid Family Leave can cover caregivers of parents or spouses in some states.

It’s important to communicate your need for these resources, because often if caregivers don’t communicate their role to the employer, underused programs may be cancelled because the employer doesn’t see a reason to keep them.

Keep the dialogue open and frequent. Once you’ve had the first discussion, continued talks will come more easily. As your loved one’s condition changes, so too will your role in their care. It’s important for your employer to understand your situation so they can continue to support your needs – which benefits job performance and satisfaction.

Know what protections are available. While each state has difference laws for employment and caregiving status, there are some national guidelines that can offer protection, such as: FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains instances when discrimination against an employee with caregiving responsibilities is unlawful, specifically based on gender, race, or age.

Caregiving is a difficult job, and each day brings unique challenges. If you have healthcare questions about care for your loved one, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re here to listen, and we can walk you through care options available in your area.

Are you balancing work with caring for a loved one? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

By Blair Klayko