SeniorBridge is featured in a nationally syndicated Reuters article that was published on MSN Money and hundreds of other outlets about how to decide whether you should quit your job to care for an aging parent. The story, which features quotes SeniorBridge's Susan Fleischer, LCSW, MSSW, ACSW, CMC, CSW-G, CSWM, CMFSW, underscores the reality that elder care is a job for professionals and that frequently hiring help can be more cost-effective than quitting one’s own job to do it yourself.
Recently divorced and with her only child in college, Nancy Wurtzel made a life-changing decision.
It was not the exciting midlife change Wurtzel, 56, had imagined. But on her last visit, she realized that her 91-year-old mother was unable to cook, had lost weight and could no longer differentiate day from night. She was also having trouble paying her bills herself, making her vulnerable to swindlers.
Wurtzel says she was guided by one thought: Her mother needed her. How to manage without an income was an afterthought.
"Sadly, I hadn't thought out the financial part," says Wurtzel, who has now been unemployed for six months. "I'm living on my savings. I'm in OK shape now, but I can't continue like this, or I won't have anything for retirement."
Because she has no job, she is not paying into Social Security or making contributions to an individual retirement account.
Wurtzel is not alone. She is part of a generation of 50-plus caregivers who lose an average of $303,880 when they leave the workforce early to care for an aging parent, according to research from MetLife.
A decision that carries so much financial risk deserves an equivalent amount of deliberation, says Susan Fleischer, executive director of geriatric care management company SeniorBridge.
"Many times this becomes a very reactive decision, and it needs to be more planned, more introspective," says Fleischer, who advises caregivers on this topic.
She urges them to consider the financial implications of quitting: Can your family get by without your income? How will dropping out of the workforce affect your retirement savings? Are there other options? Would it be cheaper to pay for adult day care or assisted living than quitting?
And then consider: Can you handle the day-to-day obligations of caregiving? If your parent needs around-the-clock care, are you prepared to forgo vacations and dinners out with friends?
Also consider the impact on your career. You might think you are just taking a few months off until things settle down. But the average caregiver spends 4.6 years in that role, according to a 2009 National Alliance for Caregiving study. Would you be able to maintain your job skills and contacts over that time?