How to Talk to Your Boss About Caregiving

Whether you’re exhausted from caregiving and unable to perform at your usual best at work or you’re in need of some time off to take mom or dad to appointments, it may be time to speak with your boss about your situation.

Here’s the thing: caregiving isn’t a readily talked about topic. Often, taking care of our aging parents is just something we devoted daughters and sons do. But, when parents need time off from work to take their kids to the dentist, they tap into flex time or whatever arrangement they have with their employer. That’s why you should hopefully feel comfortable doing just the same when it’s the opposite and you’re parenting up: mom or dad has an important appointment.

If you’re nervous, keep in mind it’s in your employer’s best interest to have your back: 65 percent of caregivers report poor eating habits, 58 percent have worse exercise habits than before caregiving and 40 to 70 percent family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression. Basically, we’re in poorer health than our colleagues who aren’t elder caregivers which means higher absenteeism, higher turnover and poorer productivity and quality of work when we are actually working. They will hopefully have your back.

  • Schedule a meeting. If you can have a face-to-face meeting, approach your boss. Depending on your parent’s diagnosis, you may get emotional during the meeting—just something to expect. But, you can explain the situation matter-of-factly and how it’s taking its toll. You don’t have to disclose the nature of their illness—in many instances, less is more. Relationships with bosses and situations at work can vary tremendously, so use your judgment and how much information you choose to reveal. You may want to focus on how it’s impacting your work as well as your emotional, physical, spiritual health.
  • Know what you want. Are you asking for an extended deadline on a project you missed because you were in the ER last night? Or to work from home every Friday? Or to leave early on an as needed basis, no questions asked based on the situation? Identify your ask before the meeting.
  • Research the leave policies. While there’s no paid family leave legislation for eldercare across the country, some companies do offer paid leave. Look into your company’s policies. Do they have one and can you tap into it? Can you speak to HR—maybe it’s time they implement one? If there is an existing policy, you may want to mention this to your boss during the meeting.

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