Family caregivers, you are truly the unsung heroes of our country. You have lives of your own – jobs, hobbies, passions, and maybe even children still living under your roof. Yet, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, you also provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care to a family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia. That adds up to over $220 billion in unpaid work! Stepping into the role of a caregiver might feel like a full time job in its own right, especially because a family member with dementia will need an increasing level of care and supervision as their disease progresses. At what point does it become impossible for you to juggle your current job and provide enough care for your family member? Should you leave the workforce or cut your working hours, or is it time to consider other care alternatives?
The Challenges of Being a Caretaker
Being a caregiver is a serious commitment, one that you may have never actively accepted. In many cases, a spouse, parent, or sibling needs help, and you step up. It isn’t a choice; it’s a duty that you perform out of compassion and love. As a caregiver, you may have to sacrifice your own hobbies and relaxation time to take care of your family member, but that’s only part of the difficulty. Caring for someone with dementia also takes an emotional toll. Your husband may accuse you of stealing his socks, your mother may throw a sudden and scary temper tantrum. You may have to give up date night with your spouse or the daily yoga class that helped you let off steam. It’s no wonder that the Alzheimer’s Association reports that “nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.”
Now, add in the stress, time-commitment, and focused required to hold a full-time job, and you can see how balancing out the needs of caregiving and career can be particularly difficult.
Is It Time to Quit Your Job?
Inevitably, your family member will come to the point where he or she needs consistent monitoring. You can no longer simply leave them alone while you go to work. Is now the time to quit your job so that you can be a full-time caregiver? The answer to that depends on a lot of different factors:
Personal Preference: You may feel that you are the person best suited for caring for your loved one. Maybe they respond best to you, and you are concerned about leaving them in the care of a stranger.
Cost of Outside Help: According to an article in USA Today, the average hourly cost of a home health aide in the United States is $19 per hour and can be as high as $30 per hour in California. Even at the average hourly rate, paying a home health aide to care for your family member eight hours a day, five days a week while you work will cost you $3,040 a month. Medicare and Medicaid provide limited home care coverage, so you may be on the hook for a lot of these costs.
Other Income: Quitting your job is a big decision that will probably have a significant impact on your finances. This choice will be easier to make if your spouse earns a good income, if you have a lot of savings, and/or if you are eligible to receive Social Security or pension payments. Before you make the decision to quit your job, work with a financial advisor to see how the decision will affect your long-term plans and especially your retirement!
Available Memory Care Facilities: Before you make the decision to quit your job, you may want to consider moving your family member into a memory care facility. Facilities, like Sunshine Care in Poway, California, are specially equipped to care for residents at all stages of dementia. These facilities provide 24-hour monitoring and supervision and care for residents in specially-designed homes.
Your Well-Being: For many of us, our work provides purpose and welcomed social interaction as well as income. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 40 percent of family caregivers suffer from depression. If caregiving is a highly stressful responsibility for you, then quitting your job to be a fulltime caregiver for your family member may take too great a psychological toll. At the end of the day, you must take care of yourself first so that you have the ability to care for others. It is not a personal failing to admit that you would rather work than care for a family member. If that is your choice, you simply need to find a means for your family member to receive the care they need.
Here at Sunshine Care, we understand how families and caregivers struggle with these tough questions. If you live in the Poway/Rancho Bernardo/San Diego area, we invite you to our free monthly Support Group for Caregivers and Families.
Categories: Memory Care