Tough Choice for Family Caregivers


AgingCare.com posted a good article titled, “Should You Quit Your Job to Care for Your Elderly Parent” which we really like here at Support For Home In-Home Care. The article, written by Carol Bradley Bursack, deals with a question that many family caregivers have to deal with as their parent(s) age or a spouse requires care due to illness or injury.

Implicit in AgingCare’s article is the progression that occurs so many times in these circumstances, and that we have seen all too often as a home care agency. At first, the folks just need a few errands taken care of or an occasional visit to help out. As time passes, the needs increase, as does the family caregiver’s commitment of time and energy. At some point, the caregiver ends up asking, “Should I give up my job and take care of Mom full-time?”

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Emotionally, being a full-time caregiver can be immensely rewarding – and totally exhausting. Financially, as Ms. Bursack points out, the issues are equally complex, but the article points to the following drawbacks in giving up employment to become the caregiver:

  1. Social Security: Even though, as a family caregiver, you will work very hard – often much harder than you would work at a paying job – your work hours won’t show up on your Social Security record. Depending on the number of years you are officially unemployed, you not only lose the take-home wages, but you could have lost hundreds of dollars a month in Social Security benefits when you reach retirement age.
  2. Retirement plans: You miss out on an employer’s retirement plan or a 401K match. If you aren’t employed, you won’t have the stress of watching your 401K fluctuate in value because you won’t even have one. You’ll have no retirement package unless you had a healthy retirement plan before you quit your job.
  3. Job skills: Your job skills may become out of date while you care for your elders, as others in your field move ahead.
  4. Re-entering the workforce: If you are unemployed it’s harder to get a new job than if you are currently employed. In today’s tight job market, re-entering the workforce may not be easy.
  5. Your age: You are aging as you are caregiving. Age discrimination when hiring is illegal, but employers can find other ostensible reasons for not hiring you – such as out-of-date skills.
  6. Caregiver isolation: Not everyone is cut out to be a full-time caregiver. You may find that while you are glad not to be juggling a job and your caregiving responsibilities, you miss the work atmosphere. You miss your paycheck. You miss the social interaction you had as an employed person.

I believe the article hits the nail on the head. There are even a few other issues we could point out, but this gives plenty of food for thought for anyone facing this choice. I am very comfortable that it is not just the self-interest of a home care agency to say, think long and hard about getting outside help from a high integrity agency. If being a caregiver is one’s mission, fantastic. If it is not a matter of passion, get help.

Best wishes. Bert

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