Requesting FMLA for Alzheimer's Caregivers

Last updated: December 2023

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that allows you to go on temporary leave from your job because of family, medical, or military reasons. FMLA is commonly used when you or a family member has a chronic health condition. A serious health condition under FMLA is a condition that is long-term and requires ongoing medical treatment.1

Alzheimer's disease is a serious health condition that is covered under FMLA. Alzheimer's caregivers may need to use FMLA in order to provide care for their loved one.2

What is FMLA?

FMLA allows employees to go on leave for up to 12 work weeks in a year. This leave is unpaid but you are able to keep your health benefits during this time. You will also be able to return to your job, or an equivalent job, after your leave is over.1

Who needs FMLA?

As an Alzheimer's caregiver, you may need to use FMLA to take time off from your job and care for your loved one.

People use FMLA for a few different reasons. They may need to care for a family member or they may have a serious health condition themselves. FMLA protects leave for employees who:3

  • Have a serious health condition that makes them unable to work
  • Are caring for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition
  • Have welcomed a new child in their family through birth, adoption, or foster care
  • Have a family member in the military (or recent veteran) and must leave for reasons related to their foreign deployment or if they have a serious injury or illness

Who is eligible?

You must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for FMLA. You are eligible for FMLA leave if you:2

  1. Have worked for your employer for at least 12 months
  2. Have at least 1,250 hours of service in the 12 months before your FMLA leave starts
  3. Work somewhere where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles

What should you know about taking FMLA leave?

You can use your FMLA leave all at once or you may choose to break it up throughout the year. For example, you can use all 12 weeks of FMLA leave in 1 block of time or you can reduce your weekly hours at work. This all depends on what your employer allows.3

Even though FMLA is unpaid, you can use employer paid leave during an FMLA leave if your employer allows it. Your employer may also require you to use paid leave during this time.3

How can you request FMLA?

The process for requesting FMLA is fairly simple. Keep in mind that the process, requirements, and eligibility may be slightly different based on your employer.3,4

Tell your employer

The first step to requesting FMLA leave is to talk to your employer. You should let your employer know at least 30 days in advance that you are taking FMLA leave.3,4

You do not need to tell your employer anything specific regarding the health of you or your family member. But, they do need enough information to know that the reason for the leave is protected under the FMLA.4

Your employer will tell you that you are eligible

After you have notified your employer, they will tell you whether or not you are eligible for FMLA leave. They will tell you within 5 business days. If you are not eligible for FMLA leave, your employer must provide at least 1 reason why you are not eligible.4

At this time, your employer may also give you notice of your rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.4

You may need to provide a certification to your employer

Your employer may request that you complete a medical certification from your doctor. If your employer requests certification, you will have 15 days to provide that information to them.4

The medical certification must include the following information:4

  • The doctor's contact information
  • When the serious health condition began
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Certain medical information about the condition (such as symptoms, hospitalizations, doctors visits, etc.)
  • If you are unable to work or if your family member needs care
  • If you need leave that is continuous or intermittent

Your employer will review the certification and let you know if there is any information that is missing. If there is missing information, you will have 7 days to get the missing information.4

Your employer may also request that you get a second opinion (or even a third opinion) if they are unsure if the first opinion is valid.4

If you need to continue your leave after the initial time is up, your employer may require an updated certification.4

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