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Lost Income of Caregivers

The lost income of #caregivers is something I didn’t actually experience much ’til now. This summer my work situation went haywire. Instead of enjoying the sunshine, I’m coping with the loss of a job while caring for my mom.

Lost income of caregivers

Where is that pot of gold?

Lost Income of Caregivers

A 2011 MetLife study estimated that #caregivers looking after parents have lost a total of nearly $3 trillion in wages, pension, and Social Security benefits. That’s a staggering amount for any group and, on an individual basis the stress of losing income is tremendous.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have steady employment my whole life. I got my working papers at age sixteen so I could peel potatoes and wash dishes at a catering company. It was hot, exhausting work but I earned enough to buy my own stereo and after that I was hooked on work. In college, I had a job at a laundromat; later I was a waitress. Once I earned my degree, I worked as a counselor and a teacher. I became the director of an education center and finally found my dream job when I launched my freelance writing business 14 years ago.

Writing at home gave me the flexibility I needed to join the growing ranks of working caregivers. The MetLife study claims that, “The proportion of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years. ” I’ve been able to serve as Mom’s caregiver because I had long term clients that kept my income stable. Things changed suddenly when one of my best clients merged with a large organization.

At the new agency, I completed tech training, new employee orientation, and countless meetings that had little relationship to my work. After six months of employment, the big organization had consumed all the assets I’d helped my little client acquire over 14 years. My job was not included in the budget for the new fiscal year and I was given ONE WEEK’S NOTICE! Their words of consolation: “You can collect unemployment.”

Caregiving Complicates Employment

There’s no doubt that I could recover better from a financial blow like this if I were not caring for my mom. My mother now needs two people to help her go to the bathroom or get into bed. Her condition keeps me tied to the house. I’m networking with colleagues over the phone and doing my best to find business leads. But it’s hard to follow up when you’re always on caregiver duty.

I believe that something new will emerge in the near future and I try not to get caught in a cycle of worry. Fretting just ruins your sleep and adds nothing to your bottom line. Collecting unemployment might help temporarily, but I can’t even do that. My unemployment claim was challenged because I’m a freelancer and the state investigators see that I write for other clients. As a result, I’ve been told that claim examiners need extra time to evaluate my case. Go ahead, be thorough (while my mortgage payment waits!) I just hope those state employees never have to serve as caregivers for their parents. If they do, the first thing they’ll notice — after the huge salary cut — is that there’s no such thing as extra time. In fact, there’s no time for anything at all.

Healing Effects of Caregiving

The healing effects of caregiving get little attention. Many family #caregivers understand that caring for someone can bring positive change and transform our lives. After a week of horrific national violence, I think caregivers have insight to offer as America struggles to heal.

Healing Effects of Caregiving

I’ve been thinking about the children who lost a loved one this week. A policeman killed Philando Castile as his girlfriend and her 4-year old daughter watched. Shortly afterward, the families of five Dallas policemen lost fathers, sons, and brothers. The pain that ripped through the country after these senseless murders shreds the fabric of our society. It will haunt us for years to come.

Caregivers and Healing

I think caregivers have a unique perspective on these events. Every day we get up and minister to people we love. We have a deep understanding of the value of life and constant awareness of the threat of death. Research on caregivers also shows that most of us feel caring for a loved one has a healing effect on us. Our approach to healing can play a role in our communities, too.

A 2014 National Opinion Research Center survey found that 83 percent of caregivers viewed our work as a positive experience. Many family caregivers also said they felt: “a sense of giving back to someone who has cared for them, personal growth, and increased meaning and purpose” in life.

People I know are often surprised when I tell them how much I value the experience of caring for my mom. They see it as a hard job and one that must surely depress me. Sometimes that’s true. But I’m also very thankful that I have a job that allows me to do this for my mother. Being a caregiver has made me a far more compassionate, patient and loving person. I feel the healing effect of caregiving in every aspect of my life and I want to share that with others.

Caregivers make the preservation of life a priority even when we know that we can’t save our loved one. Yet so many people around us believe that shooting people who are African-American, White, Latino, or Gay is an acceptable response to conflict. My family raised me to value life and my experience as a caregiver has strengthened what I learned as a kid. We need to respect the gift of life that was given to each person in our society and find ways to make our world more humane for everyone. If you are a caregiver, please encourage your friends and family to share their love and not their hate. There is more than enough outrage to go around, but not nearly enough compassion.