People are starting to talk about caregiving. A recent Forbes article highlighted how 40 million family caregivers in the US are putting their own careers on hold to provide unpaid care — sometimes for decades. As a result these family caregivers could find themselves unable to provide for themselves in the future.

Our community had some strong reactions to this piece. Here’s what they had to say:

Lost careers

Savings gone. My professional career went out the door. Don’t know when I get back in the workforce if I will ever make the same salary. I know I wont be able to live off social security. It’s isolation right now. Caregivers are forgotten, like vets are. When caregivers go back into the workforce, they should be given priority, because, same as vets, they gave up their lives to take care of something/someone, very important. – Donna D.

I have been a caregiver 24/7 for my 84 year old Mom who has Alzheimer’s for over 6 years now and I would do it again without a problem. Careers and money come and go, but not our parents. – Concepcion O.

As an only child, I had to quit my $60,000+ a year job three years ago to care for my mom who fell ill from an invisible disease. She was 62 when she had to quit her job of $80,000 a year because she couldn’t make it thru the day and had to stop her education (she was near completing her doctorate degree). I now need to get a job to help support us but I’m having a hard time. I’ve been turned down for jobs because people fear I’ll be unreliable because I have a sick parent. It’s very troubling. I wish there was more support for us. – Lisa C.

It is virtually impossible to be a responsible worker in a paying job and be a full time caregiver for our loved ones – in my case, both of my parents. – Julie F.

Caregiving to special needs children also predominantly falls to women who often can’t hold down employment due to medical and special education needs. – Christine B.

I’m in my late 50’s and don’t have a clue what I’m going to do to survive my “old age.” Who’s going to hire me at whatever age I am when she passes with the employment gap on my resume? – Sherry H.

I quit work in 2007 [to care for my parents and father-in-law]. I estimate that it’s cost me about 300k in earnings, not to mention losing out on 401K matches, the lost Social Security money, and most certainly a raise or two. That’s money I’ll never get back. So when people ask me why I don’t “just sell” my parent’s house and “put Dad in a home. Besides, that money should be spent on him, not you”, I tell them this is why. My husband and I are going to need that money for our future. Are we supposed to suffer in our old age because I was a good daughter? I think not. – Carole H.

I left a retail management position with benefits and took on poverty while looking out for my father’s best interests. – Ronda R.

resume gapLost savings

I have been unpaid for about 8 years now…and at 55 years old my savings is tapped out. It is devastating…and I am still caregiving. – Jennien S.

Took care of my mother for eleven years, didn’t work for some of those years, worked part time for others. Now she’s gone and I’m in my sixties and trying desperately to make up for lost time, slogging away at a fulltime job I hate when I should be thinking about retiring, but the reality is, that’s never going to happen. I don’t regret caring for her and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if only she were here. But I wish I had been able to take more care for my own future. – Elaine B.

Ineligible for benefits

I took care of my dad for 16 years (he passed last August). I was notified by Social Security that I am ineligible for any sort of disability (should I ever need it, God forbid), until I work my 40 quarters all over again. I’m 47 now and between not being a kid and being out of the “workforce” all those years, I am having a hard time finding a job. I don’t have friends to go out with (not that I even have money to go out with) and obviously, I never had my own family. I’m having to start all over while others I know are planning their retirement. However, as much as it all sucks, I would do it all over in a heartbeat to make sure my dad was well taken care of. – Katherine D.

I took care of my special needs child for 30 years till he moved into heaven with Jesus. I then went to work as a caregiver. Looking back, I gained a lot of memories and unconditional love from my son, but I have lost a lot. I am 54 years old with no retirement. I haven’t built up SS due not to working them years. I now work and can build up SS and a private retirement (my company don’t offer retirement) but i know in the end it won’t be enough to take care of me in my old age. – Trish M.

I’m of the belief that you should be able to care for your parents without giving up your own future. It’s all fine and well to say “money comes and goes”, but you still need it to survive in this world of ours. It would be nice if someone, somewhere realized that if we are giving up everything for our parents/husbands/wives/children/siblings/friends now, WE will be the ones going on government aid in the future. That’s 40 million more (and climbing) applying for welfare at any given time. – Carole H.

While so many of us do this caregiving thing, we go without compensation which means we’re not contributing to Social Security (through things like FICA tax withholding). I haven’t worked outside the home in 7, almost 8 years now while caring for my wife. I’m in my 50’s (she was diagnosed at 54) so I’m spending what would have been my peak earnings years appearing as unemployed and I assume that means I’m decreasing what benefits I’ll get from SS later in life (if I manage to stay alive that long!). That just don’t seem right to me. – Mark B.

Unpaid caregivers worry about

I’ve been a caregiver for my Mom for years now.. unpaid. I worry about ever being able to retire. I’m also single, and there’s always that thought about what will happen if/when I need help. Then there are the feelings of isolation when people rarely come around, and they just tell you that their lives are busy and they can’t. I bet they can make time to play games on Facebook though. – Ed R.

I haven’t been able to look for work in months because mom is a full time job. Some friends can’t be bothered to check in, but they’re masters of Candy Crush on their phones. – Nilsia C.

Caregiving is valuable experience

The pay stinks, and we don’t get vacations, but it’s a very important job. And I’d like to think it’s all made me a better person for if I do find that woman who wants to put up with me. – Ed R.

Becoming professional caregivers

Caring for my mom gave me experience to get me a job as a caregiver for someone else, I have been to school and tried other jobs but it seems like once you care for someone it really changes you and you become really sensitive to the feelings of our seniors and you want to do the best you can for them, I don’t get paid much and may not qualify for medical unless I get full time hours after 90 days, but this is the only job I seem suited best for anymore. – Clare W.

I’ve had a few family members tell me I would make a good CMA. Seniors definitely need more who care… so something to do with that may be an option in the future. – Ed R.

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