STORIES

Balancing Finances and Caring for Sick Family Members

“While all caregivers are honored to be there for the ones they love, the job is overwhelming and oftentimes soul-crushing. We shouldn’t have the added burden of financial ruin — a burden that paid family medical leave could help avoid.”

Melissa Alexander, a high school teacher in Prince William County, was a caregiver for her mother and aunt for a decade. So she understood why paid family medical leave is so critical for families. Even with that experience, she wasn’t prepared when she received the devastating news that her eight-year-old daughter, Julia, had brain cancer.

To help her daughter through the treatment process, Melissa used all of her available leave. Colleagues even donated an additional 30 days of paid leave. She was lucky to have an employer who was compassionate and accommodating; they did everything they could to help Melissa keep her job. But the paychecks stopped at the end of three months.

As Julia battled cancer, Melissa was forced to take a leave of absence. One year became two, medical bills piled up and the family struggled to make ends meet on one salary.

The happy ending is that Julia’s treatment was successful and she’s now back in school.

The less-happy ending is that, after two years away from the classroom, Melissa had to take a job at a different school, in a different district, with lower pay.

“While all caregivers are honored to be there for the ones they love, the job is overwhelming and oftentimes soul-crushing,” she said. “We shouldn’t have the added burden of financial ruin – a burden that paid family medical leave could help avoid.”