Author Topic: Canadian Caregivers - Caregiver benefits & Compassionate Care benefits  (Read 1060 times)

elaine amj

  • Magnum Stache
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  • Location: Ontario
Any fellow Canadian Mustachians navigating the murky waters of Employment Insurance benefits? Or plain helpful folks who can help me sort out my options?

Here's the situation. DH has cancer. He was diagnosed in early 2016 and we got the all clear in October 2016. A month later, he started dealing with some major symptoms and in Feb 2017, it was official - the cancer has returned. Given the quick recurrence, it's very serious. We're currently in the midst of treatment and he starts radiation treatment on Monday.

My dilemma now revolves around caregiver benefits. I want to take as much time off as possible over the next few months as I will be his primary caregiver. We have to travel for treatment 2 hours away so will essentially be living part time in another city for 6 weeks of radiation. So far, I have avoided taking leave up and have been using vacation time. From Nov - Dec 2017, I borrowed 8 days of vacation from 2018. So far in January, I have used up 2 more vacation days. So a total of 10 out of my 15 vacation days total. In the turmoil of everything, I didn't realize it was so many days and I regret not taking them as unpaid days off instead. (The Family Caregiver benefit program is new as of Dec 2017 - I would have applied for it and taken leave during my husband's chemo if I had known). Anyway, ancient history now.

This time around, I'm trying to think everything through and consider all the consequences and could use some help :)

Through Canada's Employment Insurance program, I have two benefit programs I can apply for (we have medical notes for both):
- Family Caregiver benefits for critically ill or injured family members: up to 15 weeks of benefits
- Compassionate Care benefits for family members facing a significant risk of death within the next 6 months: up to 26 weeks of benefits
As far as I understand, the 2 benefits programs can be combined - but I believe this means they can be taken one after the other, not stacked.

Job protected leaves add to the complication. Currently, my boss has approved an 8 week Critical Illness Leave (separate matter from the benefits!) that allows me to be on leave for up to 17 weeks. I am also eligible for various other leaves, including Compassionate Care Leave (up to 28 weeks of leave).

At this point, I think I will apply for the Family Caregiver benefits (along with the Critical Illness Leave I am already approved for) and then when that runs out, apply for the Compassionate Care benefits. I currently have medical notes where the doctor signed off on Family Caregiver Benefits and Compassionate Care benefits. (side question: will it be weird to apply for Compassionate Care benefits with a note that is 3 months old? Or am I supposed to apply for both benefits at the same time and let them decide what to give me? The website says: If you are unemployed and already receiving EI benefits, you can also apply for compassionate care benefits.)

I plan to apply on my last day at work which is this Friday so I only have a few days to figure out my best course of action. And to be honest, am also reeling a little from the fact that his doctor signed off on the Compassionate Care benefits. I was kinda hoping she would say she couldn't sign it. She was probably just being nice and generous, but it's still a hard one to take.