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Caring for family members while holding down a full- or part-time job is a way of life for millions of us: Close to 30 percent of Americans are caregivers, and six out of ten caregivers are employed full or part time.
Caregiving impacts work in a myriad of ways. You may miss work to take care of your loved one’s—or your own—health. Some caregivers turn down training opportunities and take on smaller roles in the office, others may wonder if caregiving cost them a promotion. As the responsibilities of caring for another wreak havoc on your career and success at work, you may feel tempted to quit altogether. Should you?
Before making a rash decision about whether to quit your job, take a step back and think about the long-term ramifications.
“Just as with taking care of a child, it can seem that it doesn’t pay to work,” says Judy Santamaria, director of the Family Caregiver Support Program, VNSNY. “But don’t just think about your salary now. Think about future earnings, promotions, your pension and Social Security benefits as well.” This financial fallout can be considerable: The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) estimates that adult children who take time off from work to care for parents can expect to lose $659,000 in pensions, Social Security benefits and wages.
Why so much money? Many caregivers think they’ll be away from work for a few months, but the average duration is five years. In addition, says Santamaria, “it is much easier to keep a job than to find one, especially in a recession. If you take five years off, you have to ask what are your chances of getting back into the workforce?”
There are also the social and emotional aspects of working to consider. “Work gives people a lot more than just income. They get satisfaction and social stimulation.” And not everyone is cut out for the endless responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with a full-time caregiving role.
However, if your situation is intense and you are feeling stretched to the breaking point, look into short-term or less permanent alternatives to quitting. Talk to your boss to discuss options. Also, sit down with a financial planner who specializes in elder care issues and who might know of benefits you or your loved one can tap into. For example, many insurance programs cover home health care, which could ease your situation.
“Keep your foot in the door,” advises Santamaria, “because it can be very hard to reestablish yourself when you are no longer a caregiver.”
To find out how VNSNY can help you care for your family member, please call 1-800-675-0391.