Most adult children feel a sense of duty to either help or spearhead caring for their aging parents. Some may find the weekly visit by Mom and Dad to check on them, and do a few chores and errands enough, while some make it part of their daily routine. But if you are considering quitting your job to step in and take care of your aging parents, it’s best to weigh the benefits and costs first.
Benefits of Caring for Aging Parents Yourself
- Knowing firsthand how they are doing day and night, and the quality of care they receive
- Not having to pay for in-home long-term care or special assistance
- Delaying, or even eliminating, the need for nursing home care in the future, unless their medical needs call for it
- Getting closer with your aging parents emotionally
Although, not every family is the same. For some, these benefits are unattainable, while for others, it may be realistic, but not for the long term. This is why it is important to assess your personal situation, the state of the relationship you have with your parents, your own mental health, and the state of your finances, before jumping into this very crucial decision.
Costs of Quitting Your Job to Care for Aging Parents
Loss of Income
Quitting your job to take care of your aging parents means giving up paychecks for a considerable amount of time. In fact, research shows that caregivers who quit their jobs lost an average of $303,880 in income and benefits. You might think that you will be able to recoup this loss when it’s time to inherit a portion of their estate, especially if your parents have significant assets and savings that they might not outlive. However, keep in mind that they may still need to pay for long-term care in the future, and that can potentially deplete their resources.
Decreased Retirement Savings and Benefits
The long hours you spend caring for your parents may be rewarding to both parties, but they won’t show up on your Social Security records. Being officially unemployed for a period of time keeps you from earning social security benefits. You are also rid of the opportunity to be part of an employer’s retirement plan or 401(k) match. Reports have also shown that a third of caregivers withdraw from their retirement savings to accommodate needs during caregiving.
Challenges in Re-entering the Workforce
With the job market as tight as it is, it can be more challenging to apply for a job when you have a significant gap in employment. Another thing to consider is the quality and timeliness of your job skills. Some are caught by surprise to discover that the jobs they had before now require higher levels of technical expertise, educational qualifications, and training.
Social Isolation and Burnout
Many adult children who care for their elderly parents feel a sense of purpose and meaning. However, these positive emotions often come with feelings of stress or emotional strain. Research has shown that caregivers report feeling stressed and strained physically, emotionally, and financially; with a fourth of them expressing that they find it difficult to care for their own health. The caregiver role can also cost you opportunities to socialize and unwind with co-workers and friends, leaving you feeling isolated at times.
Alternatives to Fully Quitting Your Job
How do you balance it, then? Here are a few alternatives.
- Work part-time. You can talk to your supervisor about your current situation, and ask if you could work part-time or reduce your weekly hours temporarily.
- Work remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic showed that remote work is actually feasible for most companies. If your job can be done as effectively remotely, you can discuss the possibility of remote work with your manager.
- Take advantage of family leaves. Eligible employees are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave every year under Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While on FMLA leave, your benefits and position remain intact.
- Enlist your employer’s resources. Some companies offer paid or partially paid FMLA leaves. Some offer other benefits for employees who care for aging or ailing family members. So, make sure to ask your employer about these.
- Ask for help from the community. Most communities have volunteers who are willing to help the elderly. Ask your local agencies and search for online resources to get a hold of volunteers who might be of assistance to you.
Is quitting your job to care for aging parents the right decision? There is no definitive answer, as this totally depends on your personal circumstances and current situation. Before deciding and saying yes, make sure that you have weighed all the pros and cons, and have prepared yourself and your family emotionally and financially.
Author; Arleen Atienza