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Chat Transcript: Juggling Work and Caregiving

AARP expert Amy Goyer answers your questions

Comment from Jill: I'm cutting back my work hours because caring for my mom, who lives with me, just takes too much time. But I'm worried about my financial future.

Amy Goyer: You are right to be concerned. Research indicates 19 percent of retirees stopped working earlier than planned because of caregiving, with significant loss of income: Female caregivers age 50-plus who stop working to care for a parent lose an average of $324,044 in wages and benefits over the course of their lives; male caregivers age 50-plus lose an average of $283,716.

You might consider meeting with a financial planner to do some forecasting and determine the best way to care for your mom but also ensure your own financial security in the future.

Comment from Arlene: I am working two part-time jobs and taking care of my mom and dad AND my two kids and my husband. I don't know anyone else in this position. I feel like I'm the only one doing this!

Amy Goyer: Arlene, so many of us feel alone! Actually you are one of 42 million caregivers on any given day in the U.S., and about three-fourths of us are working at some point.

Comment from JDM: Should I tell my employer about my situation as a caregiver? I'm always told to keep personal and work issues separate, but caregiving is affecting my work.

Amy Goyer: While every job is unique, keeping your employer apprised of your situation is usually a good idea. If you're missing deadlines, coming in late or using a lot of leave, your supervisor may wonder why or simply assume you are not focused or committed. It's better for your employer to know the challenges you are facing and understand that you are, and want to continue to be, a valued employee.

Here are some tips for approaching your employer:

Consider talking with your human resources or personnel manager about any company benefits and policies that might help you as a caregiver.

Schedule a face-to-face meeting, if possible, with your immediate supervisor to explain your caregiving situation.

Be professional, sincere, calm and confident.

Affirm your commitment to your job.

Explain the basic facts about your role as a caregiver, including the unpredictability of your situation. You probably won't want to go into all the details; you just want to convey the gist of your responsibilities.

Agree on how you will communicate changes in the future.

If you are experiencing a specific challenge, suggest solutions, such as a flexible work schedule or leave of absence, and ask for suggestions as well.

Work out an agreement with the understanding that the situation could change. Put your arrangement in writing and make sure your human resources or personnel office has a copy or knows about it.

Keep your employer apprised of changes as they occur, and update your agreement as needed so everyone is clear about roles and expectations.

Next page: Balancing work and long-distance caregiving. »

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