Preparing for Death of a Spouse: Using Family Medical Care Leave

hospital bed 1My late husband was critically ill. Because of a tracheotomy in his throat, he couldn’t speak for the last two months of his life. Touch became even more important than it had been. Knowing I was there, holding his hand, talking to him, being quiet with him, helped ease his sense of isolation. One day my brother was visiting and encouraged me to go back to my apartment for a much-needed nap. He would stay with Jerry. When I returned about two hours later, I saw my husband, lying in his hospital bed, eyes closed. My brother, sitting at his side reading, was holding Jerry’s hand. That image is indelibly stamped on my mind.

I was blessed in being granted an eight-month leave of absence (quite a bit more than required by law) to care for, advocate for, and be with my husband during his illness–treasured time for both of us. You, too, may be eligible for unpaid Family Medical Leave (FMLA) if your spouse is seriously ill.

FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (FMLA)

“FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;man in wheelchair
  • for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.” https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla

For additional information and eligibility requirements, see https://www.thebalance.com/family-and-medical-leave-act-fmla-2058514?utm_term=what+is+family+leave+act&utm_content=p1-main-1-title&utm_medium=sem&utm_source=google_s&utm_campaign=adid-b2d52b33-ace1-4b0c-a162-3a3e8c075923-0-ab_gsb_ocode-4573&ad=semD&an=google_s&am=broad&q=what+is+family+leave+act&o=4573&qsrc=999&l=sem&askid=b2d52b33-ace1-4b0c-a162-3a3e8c075923-0-ab_gsb.)

While a 12-week Family Medical Leave is generally unpaid, the Leave Act protects your job and requires that your group health benefits remain intact during its duration. Discuss your options with your employer’s Human Resources department. Perhaps you can use some of your sick time for pay during the Leave. Your employer may allow you to work from the hospital or home on some days. If you can’t afford to take unpaid leave, can you arrange for others to check on your spouse during the day?  Talk with his caregivers about effective ways to communicate if you continue working during your loved one’s illness.

This is a difficult, challenging time. I treasure the scripture found in Psalm 56:8:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.” (NLT)

If God collects our tears, records them in His book, how deeply He must love us.

Next week we’ll discuss financial issues.

4 Responses

  1. Catharine Anderson says:

    You were such an incredible woman of God as you dealt with all the daily challenges you went through in Florida.

  2. MarJean Peters says:

    Dear Carol, though I could not be with you and was not even aware of all you were going through over the years, I thank God that I can read about it now and feel with you. I’m so grateful we have reconnected!! This is such a beautiful, God-honoring story!
    Love forever,
    Jeannie

    • carolnl says:

      Thank you Jeannie. I too am deeply grateful we have reconnected and am glad you find my story to be God-honoring. That is my heart’s desire. Indeed, love forever!

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