How to Care for Aging Parents Without Sacrificing Your Career

Oct 25, 2019 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

The typical caregiver spends 24 hours a week on eldercare, which leads many to make alternative work arrangements. Sixteen percent of women take a less demanding job, 12% leave the workforce entirely, and 7% lose job-related benefits. The cost in lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits to these caregivers is staggering. For the 10 million caregivers who are over age 50 themselves, the aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits equal nearly $3 trillion. On an individual basis, the total financial loss due to caregiving was estimated in 2011 to be $324,044 for women and $283,716 for men, so those totals would be higher today.

Knowing her mother had just months to live, Liz O’Donnell prioritized her care and stepped into a different role at her job that allowed her to work part-time with flexible hours. She realized the intensive business development work she had been doing was no longer realistic. “You need to think about your post-caregiving time,” O’Donnell says. “What relationships do you want to have? What career do you want to have?” A decision made in a moment of crisis can have long-term consequences: It’s hard for older adults to rejoin the full-time workforce once they’ve left, and you risk locking in lower lifetime wages and reduced Social Security benefits (not to mention the cost of buying your own health insurance if you don’t have coverage through a spouse and you’re under the Medicare eligibility age of 65).

Most Americans are unable to absorb the financial brunt of leaving their careers, so the question becomes: how to maintain your job? Here are some tips:

  • Maximize your company benefits
  • Share the load with siblings
  • Rely on professionals
  • Practice self-care

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