When someone you care about is diagnosed with cancer, there is a natural desire to find a way to help and support that person. For caregivers, there are several things to think about, including legal protections and benefits at the federal, state, and even city levels that may be helpful to balance your caregiving responsibilities with your employment and help replace lost income. It is also important to keep in mind that as a caregiver, you need to care for yourself, and there are resources to support you.
There are a number of places to look for information about your employment rights as a caregiver.
Fair employment laws provide caregivers with protection against discrimination at work.
State laws: Most states also have a state fair employment law, similar to the ADA, but may also be more protective, so it is important to look at state laws, as well: TriageCancer.org/StateLaws
Leave laws allow employees to take time off work and provide some job protection and health insurance protection.
Employees who work under a contract or union bargaining agreement, may have additional rights or benefits that are included in those contracts.
The federal and state laws are the minimum of what employers must provide to their employees. Many employers provide additional benefits. Check your employee handbook or with your employer to learn more about what your specific employer provides. Things to look for:
There are some limited options for caregivers to replace the wages lost while taking time off work as a caregiver.
Other things to think about include managing family finances, lowering your out-of-pocket medical expenses, and planning ahead. These resources can help:
Depending on how you are related to the person you are caring for, the law may treat you differently, and you may have additional things to consider. There may come a point when your loved one is unable to express their wishes about their finances or their medical care.
In those cases, estate planning documents such as a financial power of attorney and an advance health care directive are useful tools for them to express their wishes as well as name an agent to make decisions on their behalf. Although estate planning plays a crucial role in financial and health care decisions, many people do not even have the most basic document, a will. There are a variety of documents that could make up an estate plan.
If you are your loved one’s agent for estate planning decisions, it is important to have a conversation to make sure you understand, and can execute, their wishes.
Additionally, as an agent you should make sure that you know where important documents (e.g., the advance health care directive or will), are kept as well as how to access accounts, safety deposit boxes, and storage units. Compiling information in one place, like the Triage Cancer Financial Big Picture document (downloads automatically) may be useful.
If you are not married, it may be necessary to have a signed Authorization for Use or Disclosure of Protected Health Information (i.e., a HIPAA release form) so that you are able to obtain their medical information should you need to make decisions on their behalf.
Almost all estate planning documents require that the person creating the document be of “sound mind.” Which means that the person must have the mental capacity to understand what they are doing. Therefore, it is important for estate planning documents to be created before one’s health deteriorates. Caregivers may have to bring up the subject of estate planning with their loved one. If you are struggling with this task, a social worker or other mental health professional might be able to help you have these conversations. Although not required to create an estate plan, some people prefer to work with an attorney. For information about finding an attorney: Quick Guide to Legal Assistance.
Caregivers may sometimes need help with or need a break from their caregiving responsibilities. Consider asking other family members, friends, neighbors, or other members of your support community to help. Professional respite services can also be provided through in-home care agencies, adult day services, facilities that allow short-term stays, and individuals you hire directly. There may also be retreats or meetings in your area to support caregivers. Help may be available from organizations, such as:
Last updated: 01/2023
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