Should You Quit Your Job To Take Care Of A Parent?
As parents age, their adult children often become more involved in their care. This may involve helping them pay bills, as well as doing house or yard work for them.
At some point, many children find themselves taking on a caregiver role for their aging parents, whether part-time or full-time. This may occur as a result of a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia or simply needing help on a regular basis with various activities of daily living.
For some adult children, this is a temporary duty until their parents move into a nursing home or retirement facility which offers some level of elder care services.
For children whose parents want to remain in their homes, this is not an option. In such cases, either outside caregiving assistance must be arranged or one or more of the children must step into the role of primary caregiver themselves.
When an elderly parent requires full-time care, there are a number of decisions to be made about how best to provide that care. This may include deciding how to pay for any outside care needed in addition to the services the children are providing.
One of the most consequential decisions is in regards to whether you as a caregiver should say “I quit my job” in order to care for your parent full-time. While doing so can free up significant time to devote to caregiving responsibilities, it also can cause financial strain.
Whether it is worth doing will depend to a large degree on whether the time freed up by leaving your job outweighs the financial hit it causes.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Caregiving While Working Full-Time
The advantages of keeping your full-time job while still providing care for a parent include:
Improved quality of care:
With more time you can provide better care to your parents and be more attentive to their caregiving needs. This includes overseeing their health care by scheduling and making sure they make it to regular visits to a doctor.
Reduce the cost of third-party caregiving services:
Paying for nursing home care is not cheap, and by keeping your parent at home you save the money that this would cost. The same applies to hiring an in-home caregiver, which can also be expensive.
Keep parents in their home
A primary goal of many elderly individuals is to remain within their homes. By becoming their caregiver, you can make this happen.
Better relationship with a parent
The extra time you spend with your parent or parents gives you a chance to deepen your relationship with them.
Note: For potential caregiver compensation, some programs such as Medicaid may offer compensation to caregivers for people enrolled in the program.
People who continue to work while providing a significant amount of care to a parent or parents often face a number of challenges in doing so. These can include:
Difficulty at work
As a caregiver, it can be hard to perform at your best at the job and at home.
To provide the best care possible to a parent, it may be necessary to cut back on your work hours. This can not only infringe on your ability to do your best at work but can also impede your career development.
Pressure from coworkers
If you are not able to fulfill all of your work duties as a result of being a caregiver, this can result in pressure and even discrimination from your co-workers and even bosses.
Your caregiver role may cause you to miss work often which can cause resentment among other workers who feel they have to pick up the slack.
If you have to cut back your hours at work, this can result in financial stress.
Additionally, you may not be able to contribute as much to a 401k plan or Social Security and other retirement benefits programs.
Physical and Emotional Stress
Aside from the financial stress working as a caregiver and at a job can take, there is also the potential for physical and emotional stress.
Because you may not be able to fully complete all your duties at work, this can result in stress.
When this is added to the natural stress of dealing with a parent in declining health, it can take a physical and emotional toll on a person.
What are the Risks of Leaving Your Job to Take Care of a Parent?
Lost or Reduced Income
A major drawback to quitting your job to become a caregiver is the lost income.
While there are programs that may compensate you as a caregiver in certain cases, these can take time to apply and qualify for, or may not apply at all in your case. As a result, it is important to thoroughly model the financial impact of leaving our job.
Consider whether your parents have the income they can dedicate to their care, whether in the form of a regular stipend to you or free room and board, or other assistance, that can play a part in making quitting your job to care for them feasible.
Lost Social Security Benefits
While caring for a parent often involves long hours of work, because in most cases they are not directly compensated, these hours don’t qualify you for Social Security benefits. Thus, you may lose out on a significant amount of such benefits depending on how long you serve as your parent’s full-time caregiver.
Reduced Retirement Savings
When you leave your job, not only do you lose what you would receive in salary or direct compensation but also your ability to contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401k.
In the worst case, you may find that you have to raid your existing retirement accounts to make ends meet.
Job Skill Atrophy
The time spent caring for a parent or parents can take its toll on the skills you use at your place of employment. If and when you choose to return to the workplace, you may find that there are new requirements to do your job or that it takes some time to return your skills back to their previous level.
Lost Work Connections
When you are out of the workforce it naturally becomes hard to maintain and nurture your connections with others in the industry.
While this may be more or less important depending on the type of work you do, in some cases it can be a significant impediment to getting work or maximizing a person’s income.
Mental and Emotional Fatigue
Serving as a family caregiver can be emotionally draining. One reason for this is that the job can be isolating as it often precludes you from doing much socializing with people other than your parents.
Over time, this isolation can result in emotional burnout, making it difficult for a caregiver to give their full attention to the care they provide.
What Support Is Available for Family Caregivers?
The decision as to whether to quit your job to become a full-time caregiver is complex. For some, it may be the right answer while for others it won’t work.
For those who do take this step, there are a variety of programs and options they can look to for support. These may take the form of family caregiver support groups to help you deal with the emotional toll of caregiving, financial aid, or other types of senior care assistance such as adult day care or respite care.
A number of states have unemployment policies that may make unemployment insurance (UI) available to people who are forced to quit their jobs to care for an elderly relative. Each state has its own particular eligibility requirements.
If your parents receive benefits from an insurance policy or for monthly in-home care, they can pay you directly from these proceeds. This can include life insurance policies, long-term care insurance, and VA benefits.
It’s recommended to set up a personal care agreement to guide these types of arrangements to minimize any questions or issues arising after the fact.
Most states allow Medicaid recipients to hire a family member as a paid caregiver through a Medicaid waiver program: Medicaid waiver self-directed long-term services and supports (LTSS) programs.
States offer a variety of self-directed caregiving options, including self-directed personal assistant services, which enable participants to choose and pay their providers. These Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) fall under the waiver program.
To determine if your mother qualifies for Medicaid, you can look for your state’s Medicaid office at this link.
In some states, programs that pay family caregivers may be available for those who don’t qualify for Medicaid or when certain conditions are involved such as traumatic brain injury.
To see if your state offers this type of program, you can contact the state department of social services or human resources, or your local Medicaid office.
State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) – SHIP operates on a national basis to provide counseling, resources, and assistance accessible to adults on Medicare, Medicaid, and Medicare supplemental insurance, also known as Medigap.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides several programs to eligible individuals, with different features from state to state. The CMS facilitates accessible and affordable options for care with Medicaid, Medicare, and Health Insurance Exchanges.