Of the many types of caregiver stress, financial strain produces some of the longest-lasting effects. Unemployment or underemployment for one member of a household can have a domino effect, causing caregivers and their family members to suffer from depression, negative health consequences, inadequate nutrition or medical care, and lowered socioeconomic status or poverty.
I was fired at the expiration of my family medical leave while looking after my mom during her catastrophic cancer. It hurt in many ways. I was a newlywed with a new home and mountains of student-loan debt that my husband and I incurred to get through college. That job loss and other events (major flooding, which destroyed our house; intense caregiving; an inability to return to the long hours demanded of a young lawyer; job searching in a weak economy just a few years off a major recession) swept away my family's financial stability. We learned how to make do on very little but gave up so very much and had to commit to unwavering thriftiness. I can make pennies cry, I'm so good at pinching them! And to this day — nine years later — my family's finances still suffer from the aftershocks of that career derailment.
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Caregiving while employed
Over 60 percent of caregivers are employed while they tend to others. Of those caregivers, 60 percent are employed full time. Caregiving and working are not always compatible. Almost all caregivers have to make some work adjustments, but the number of them who will be forced to leave their jobs or suffer negatively at work is significant and expected to rise due to the inability to find or pay for home health care/respite care for care recipients and the need to limit COVID-19 exposure.
It's not sustainable for caregivers to leave their jobs or reduce their incomes when caregiving becomes a part of their lives. Much like my family, most households need multiple income earners to get by.
Today we stand in the early days of an unfolding recession. Complicating the already-complex world of caregiving is the coronavirus. The unemployment rate is around 11 percent, and furloughs and layoffs are common. Older workers (who are more likely to be caregivers), particularly, think that their jobs are in peril. Caregivers need the support and deliberate consideration of employers so that they can maintain their careers while balancing caregiving duties and enduring the uncertainty of a pandemic that may last for years.