The pandemic disrupted the world of work, including the legion of employees who are also family caregivers.
Many left their jobs at the height of the pandemic to care for a loved one and have yet to return. With home health care workers in short supply, family caregivers who are still employed wonder if they might be better off quitting, too.
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Juggling work and caregiving is like having “one full-time job and one 80 percent job,” says Alison Romano, 57, of Wimberley, Texas. In June, Romano left the job she had for seven years as a project manager with the Texas Department of State Health Services to prepare for her father’s August move into her 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom home.
Her father, Kenneth Alvin Schmidt, nearly 82, has dementia. Romano now cares for him full-time.
Until August, her dad had been in an assisted living facility nearby, but “that situation took a lot of oversight,” says Romano, who was unhappy with the care he was receiving. She had weekly meetings with three different executive directors in the 18 months her father lived there. Romano, who also has a master’s degree in public health, planned her exit for about a year.
“I felt like this would be a better solution, that it would be easier for me not to work and would simplify my life,” she says. “I just couldn’t do it all.”
Caregivers face financial sacrifices
Of an estimated 53 million caregivers in this country, more than 19 percent care for an adult, according to a 2020 report, “Caregiving in the U.S.,” from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. The majority (61 percent) also held down paying jobs at some point while caregiving, and 40 percent live with the care recipient.
But leaving a paying job to become a full-time caregiver isn’t a decision made lightly. The average caregiver is 49 years old and likely to be caring for a parent.