I haven’t written a post for weeks because I’ve been engaged in a battle: Caregiving versus life. Most jobs make it difficult to be a home #caregiver for a person with #dementia. I’m a writer so, theoretically, I can work at home and still manage my mother’s care. Unfortunately she now needs more support because her condition has slipped. I got a bunch of new writing assignments from clients at the same time. I’ve had to choose between being a good #caregiver and taking care of my own life.
Caregiving versus life
Most caregivers fight this battle in one form or another. You can’t accept a dinner invitation because there’s no one to stay with your loved one. You get no time to spend with visitors because some medical crisis needs your attention. We lose lots of opportunities to connect with people who might offer us support.
We don’t just miss social activities, we also forfeit huge amounts of money. An article published by the Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that “caregiving reduces paid work hours for middle aged women by about 41 percent.” Caregivers earn less because we work fewer hours, but the losses don’t end there. The article states that if you add lost Social Security benefits to the drop in income, caregivers lose a total of $324,044. The financial estimates in that article are drawn from the MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers, which was published in 2011. Those numbers must be much higher by now.
all choices have a cost
Like many caregivers, I’ve had to make hard choices. This spring I chose to do writing that would boost my income. That means I had to sacrifice some of my personal projects (like the posts I write for this site). I also decided to be less involved in some of Mom’s care and let the hospice helpers do more. No matter how you manage things, you’ll pay a cost while caring for someone with dementia. If you prefer, you can hand all the money over to a nursing home and let them do the work. But it’s a very imperfect solution. Residential care is not always reliable and you can lose sanity over that, too.
I’ve always felt that there were benefits to keeping our family together by caring for Mom at home. You cannot reduce those benefits to an economic price tag. Nevertheless, during the month of June I’ve made a promise to myself to stay focused on my work and let the hospice staff take more responsibility. It’s hard to give up some of the small acts of care that I enjoy performing. It is necessary, however, if we’re going to have a stable economic future after Mom leaves.