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How can caregiving affect my work?

Many people find it hard to balance work and caregiving. Medical appointments for the patient and other tasks of care can interrupt your work day. You may be sleeping poorly or distracted by feelings of fatigue, uncertainty and fear, anger, depression, or anxiety. You may find yourself working less hours or not as well. You need to know the Family Leave benefits of your employer. You need to be alert to workplace discrimination experienced by caregivers.

How can I deal with working and caregiving?

Common work experiences by caregivers that cause issues with employers include: arriving late, leaving early, taking a leave, reducing work hours, or interruptions at work.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Know the policies of your organization and discuss them with the appropriate person to let them know you want to make your situation work.
  • When possible, try to schedule the patient’s medical appointments and other caregiving jobs during breaks or lunchtime.
  • Recognize signs of role overload between caring tasks and work role. Ask for help in caregiving responsibilities to seek a balance.
  • Job sharing may be possible.
  • Explore compressed work week policies at your workplace.
  • Offer to work an unpopular shift in exchange for flex-time.
  • Telecommuting or “work from home” may be possible for some positions.
  • Many large employers have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Ask your boss what support services are available. If your company doesn't have an EAP, talk with the human resources (HR) department.
  • Find support (including other caregivers) at work and take advantage of resources your employer might have.
  • If you work for a company with more than 50 employees, ask for information on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Check the Leave Policy and caregiver resources for your state.
  • Find resources that may help you with your caregiving responsibilities while you are at work such as home care. Ask a case manager or social worker for information.
  • Consider your job as an opportunity to take a short break from caregiving. Studies have shown that working family caregivers do better than non-working caregivers.
  • Do not make a hasty decision to quit your job. Keep in mind that it is usually more costly for your employer to replace you than help you make it work. If you are thinking of quitting, talk with your boss first. He or she may be more willing to help make plans.

What is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

The FMLA gives you the right to take time off work without losing your job if you are ill or caring for an ill family member.

The FMLA: 

  • Applies to workers at all government agencies and schools nationwide, as well as private companies with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the work site.
  • Guarantees that eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which can be used all at once or in increments as short as a few hours at a time (in the event an employee wants to work part-time or needs time off for appointments).
  • Guarantees that eligible employees maintain their health insurance benefits while out on leave.
  • Guarantees that an employee who returns to work will be given his or her previous position or an equivalent job with the same salary, benefits, and other conditions of employment.
  • Covers employees who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours during the most recent 12 months.

For more information: FMLA web page (U.S. Department of Labor)


  • Longacre, M.L., Weber-Raley, L., & Kent, E.E. (2021). Cancer caregiving while employed: Caregiving roles, employment adjustments, employer assistance, and preferences for support. Journal of Cancer Education, 36(5), 920–932.
  • Xiang, E., Guzman, P., Mims, M., & Badr, H. (2022). Balancing work and cancer care: Challenges faced by employed informal caregivers. Cancers, 14(17), 4146. DOI: 10.3390/cancers14174146
  • U.S. Department of Labor. (2023). Family and Medical Leave (FMLA).