From Medicare Interactive: Understanding Your Rights as A Care Giver:
Under a federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) you can take up to 12 weeks (per 12-month period) of unpaid leave from your job if you care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. “Immediate family member” refers to an employee’s spouse, child or parent.
FMLA guarantees that while you are on leave your employer will continue any health coverage you receive through the employer group health plan. And when you return to work, you must be allowed to return to your original job or to an equivalent job with equal pay, benefits and other terms of employment. You are also protected against losing any benefits to which you were entitled before your leave.
“Serious health condition” is defined as any of the following:
~A health condition in which the treatment, surgery or recovery lasts more than three consecutive days
~A period of incapacity that lasts longer than three consecutive days
~A chronic, serious health condition that extends over a period of time, requires periodic visits to a health care provider, and involves occasional episodes of incapacity
~A permanent or long-term condition for which treatment may or may not be effective
If you and your spouse work for the same employer, you may receive 12 weeks combined leave (per 12-month period). You can take the 12 weeks all at once or spaced out over time.
Under FMLA, most employers—including public agencies; state, local, and federal employers; schools; and private sector employers with more than 50 employees—must allow you to take this unpaid leave, as long as you:
~have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours (about 156 days) during that time;
~work at a location in the U.S. or in any U.S. territory where at least 50 employees of the company work within a 75-mile range.
If you are not eligible for time off under FMLA, you may still be able to work something out with your employer. Talk to your human resources office. Some employers may help by giving you information about elder-care and community services or allowing you to work from home.