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February 1, 2002

Community Resources, Daily Care

Question from Lee's Summit, Missouri, USA:

My seven year old daughter was diagnosed at age three, and while she has not had any major complications, I don't feel like I have had time to really focus on meal planning, carb counting, and just her overall care the way I would like due to the long hours that I have to put in at my job. So, I am interested in taking FMLA time off this summer to gain better control of my daughter's blood sugars, but I am not sure if I would be eligible.

Answer:

Only you, your child’s doctor, and your place of employment can decide if you are eligible for the family leave. It sounds like you may chronically overextended with the dual responsibilities of a demanding job and taking care of a child with diabetes. Keep in mind, that her regimen will continually change as she grows and most likely will be different over the summer than during the school year.

Even if you feel you get things under control during the summer when she is off, you may have to almost start from scratch when the school year begins. If you take off during the summer, you should also be working on how to set up a system where you can be on top of things and make arrangements as necessary when you go back to work. Nowadays with cell phones, beepers, the internet, and fax machines, you should be able to be in touch with your daughter’s school and child care advisors when necessary (assuming your job allows you a few minutes access to one of the above). Alternatively, you may be able to set up a system where all the people involved in her care give you information about what she ate, her blood sugars, and insulin doses every day, so you can sit down in the evening and evaluate how things are going and make changes as necessary.

Perhaps if you take off for the summer, you should also consider whether or not you need to switch jobs. Sometimes, diabetes in the family forces you to sit down and realize you would be overextended even if you didn’t have a child with diabetes. Make sure, whatever you do, you have time to enjoy life with your family. Kids grow up quickly!

TGL
Additional comments from David S. Holtzman, Esq.:

The Family and Medical Leave Act specifically permits unpaid leave from employment for illness or to care for a close relative. Your employer would probably like some documentation to substantiate your request for family leave. You might want to ask the human resources person at your company to give you some idea of what it is they want for documentation. I would suggest a note from the child’s physician or other primary healthcare provider documenting your daughter’s illness and the need for you to care for her. It is not important for the healthcare provider’s letter to go into great detail other than to document that the child has a medical condition requiring care from the parent.

DSH