Chat Transcript: Juggling Work and Caregiving

AARP expert Amy Goyer answers your questions

If you missed our live online chat with Amy Goyer, an AARP family and caregiving expert, read the transcript of the conversation.

Comment from Sheila Clayton: I have been a caregiver for my husband for the past year due to a spinal cord injury. I have been off work for the past six months to care for him and am contemplating leaving my job. My reasons are due to the cost of caregivers, because I was basically working to pay the caregiver. I have a fulfilling position working for the federal government and it is a hard decision to leave. I am 53 years old and concerned about my benefits. What have you witnessed about caregivers leaving their jobs to work part time or stay at home? Any advice is appreciated.

Amy Goyer: Sheila, I can empathize with your dilemma. It's important that you consider the long-term as well as the short-term financial implications.

If you leave your job, you'll lose benefits. What is the value of those benefits now and in the future? If you leave your job, what will that do to your pension and other retirement benefits, which over a lifetime may be more valuable? What other benefits are there to you to be working — your own fulfillment, identity, socialization, intellectual stimulation, etc.?

Instead of leaving your job completely, could you change positions with your current employer? Cut back your hours while still getting benefits and building your pension?

I'd suggest you talk with the human resources and retirement planning staff. They can help you calculate and decide the best option for you now. Remember, you need to take care of yourself or you won't be able to take care of your husband — and that includes financially.

Comment from Laura: I feel like I have two full-time jobs — my full-time paid job and taking care of my mom. I'm exhausted all the time and I'm not sure I can keep this up. I think I need to make changes in my paid work, but I'm so tired I can't even think about what or how. What are options I should consider?

Amy Goyer: Laura, I feel the same way! It can be overwhelming and hard to even stop and take an objective look at your situation. You are one of the 42 percent of U.S. employees who have cared for an older relative or friend in the last five years. In fact, 49 percent of people in the workforce expect to provide care in the next five years.

So, here are some options to think about. (These are all covered in more detail in my new free AARP ebook, Juggling Work and Caregiving.)

Change your work hours. Ask for more flexible hours, split shifts or a compressed workweek, or propose a job-sharing schedule.

Telecommuting allows you to work from home or some other location and free up time for caregiving duties. Even if you only telecommute part of the week, that might help your situation. Would a change of work location help you? Time spent commuting can be alleviated if your work is closer to your mom. You might more easily be able to pop in during your lunch hour or after work that way.

Take leave. Perhaps you could take more time off work. Find out what your employer offers in terms of leave policies, including how you can use your vacation, sick leave, personal leave, etc. Some employers even offer caregiving leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) might be an option for you. Find out your employer's policy about that.

Above all, take care of yourself, Laura. You sound like you are on the way to burnout, and you won't be able to help anyone or get your work done if that happens.

Next page: How to deal with worries over your financial future. »

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