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Working or Caregiving? A choice you shouldn’t have to make

Reflecting on how caregiving was simply added to her already full plate, social worker and Vice President Jody Gastfriend recounted a conversation with her physician in an article for the Harvard Business Review:

I worked full-time, had three kids and a husband who traveled. And, by the way, my father had dementia and was going to stay with me during my mom’s recuperation from hip surgery.

“Hmmm,” the doctor muttered disapprovingly. “That’s too much.”

“Well that’s my life.” I replied defensively. “No different from lots of other women out there.”

“It may be.” the doctor responded. “But your body is telling you this is more than you can reasonably handle.”

Gastfriend’s experience is not an unfamiliar one. Perhaps many of you can relate. What it points to, however, is the imminent moment in our mental, physical and emotional health as caregivers where “something has to give.” All too often, this means choosing between working to support your family, or quitting your job to keep your loved one healthy.

Thus, the impact of caregiving on one’s career has ripple effects that exponentially increase the impact of caregiving on public health and economic stability.

So, while your heart might feel heavy to give up the paycheck and take care of the person you love, take precautions and seek counsel. Keeping that position, with the proper support, might just leave you and your loved one better off in the long run.

Before putting in that two weeks’ notice, try the following resources suggested by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement:

  • Call 800.677.1116 or go to to use the Eldercare Locator and explore local resources.

  • Explore insurance opportunities. Assess what you would be giving up in health insurance benefits, which might be needed as a caregiver dealing with added physical stress. Explore and to learn what’s available to you and your loved one.

  • Consider your retirement and pension status with your company. It may be more detrimental down the road if you’re close to being vested and you resign now.

Despite its present shortcomings in offering caregiving support, our national corporate culture does offer much in the way of setting you up for success after your career. Consider how your job might help and protect you financially as a caregiver. Caregiving is often a temporary role, even if an extended one, so make any loss of income your last resort.

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