It’s no secret that family caregivers have to manage a major balancing act, whether they’re working or not.

If the caregiver is at home with their loved one, they have to balance caring for their own families - and just as importantly, themselves - with taking care of their family member. That means scheduling doctor’s appointments around little league games or the school play, feeding both a family and a person who may have a restricted diet, and keeping the bills paid despite the ever-increasing costs of prescription drugs and medical care.

For a caregiver with a full-time job, those responsibilities still exist - but these caregivers also have to work 40 hours a week.

While having a life outside of caregiving can have many emotional benefits, dealing with the additional demands on your time can lead to a lot of stress - especially if your employer is less than understanding. And with the added financial expenses that caregiving often leads to, it’s rare that a person can simply leave the workforce in order to be a full-time caregiver.

Eldercare is a fact of life for more than 23 million American workers.

The AARP has estimated that 23.9 million American workers are also working as unpaid family caregivers. And this number will only grow in the next few years, as the population continues to age.

This has a huge impact not only on the caregivers themselves, but also on the country’s employers. Despite this, however, the AARP has found that most businesses still do not have policies in place to support those caring for family members.

For these workers, their caregiving lives bleed into their work lives almost invariably. Phone calls from doctors, specialists, and other members of a caregiving team, doctor’s appointments that can’t be missed, sudden falls or acute illnesses - these things don’t just happen in a caregiver’s off-hours.

According to AARP research, employees who are caring for ill, elderly, or disabled family members don’t enjoy the same flexibility as those caring for children do.

Some have even faced employment discrimination as a result of their caregiving roles. This can range from simply being treated less favorably than other employees due to their family duties, being denied leave to care for their loved one, or even fired.

That means that having an employer who understands these realities can make all the difference in a caregiver’s ability to successfully manage their conflicting responsibilities.

Considering just how many Americans serve as caregivers – whether part-time or full-time – as well as work, employers would be well-advised to start considering ways to support these workers. It’s possible to protect both a company’s best interests and those of working caregivers.

What do working caregivers need to know?

Some caregivers are lucky enough to work for bosses who understand and sympathize with their family responsibilities.

Those who are not, however, need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to balancing work and caregiving.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), for instance, allows employees of companies with more than 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for an immediate family member. It also prohibits employers from punishing you for requesting the leave, whether by threatening you with job loss (they must allow you to retain your job if you abide by the FMLA guidelines) or making your work life more difficult.

Another legal protection is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from treating caregivers of disabled people differently from anyone else. In other words, if a co-worker is allowed to take time off for a child’s doctor appointment, you must be allowed to do the same for your disabled family member.

Serving as a caregiver is a tremendous act of love and sacrifice - but it can also unfortunately put a major strain on a caregiver’s personal, emotional, and financial resources.

If a family member’s care is resulting in unmanageable medical or long-term care costs, you may want to discuss the possibility of a life settlement with them. If they have a life insurance policy they no longer need or want and they qualify, they may be able to sell it on the Secondary Market for more than its cash surrender value. Find out more about how life settlements work and the transaction process here.