Should I quit my job to care for my parent with Alzheimer's?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 13, 2016
Exhaustedmentally asked...

Any help on overcoming guilt of living far away from a parent who is in assisted living with Alzheimer's (dementia). It's the hardest thing and I am considering quiting my job and moving back. It is heart breaking to not be there.

Community Answers

Francesc answered...

It's an extremely hard decision to make. You have to know, though, that while you feel compelled at this point to do this for your parent, it's not an easy task. It takes a very special person to be a caregiver.

The amount of patience that's required only grows as the job requirements progress.

I attempted to help my mom be a caregiver for my dad, who had dementia. I was an IT (Information Technology - a.k.a. computer) professional for about 20 years and was included in the Great Telecom Downturn in 2002, so I was "retired" early and was able to help her.) Mom was very devoted to dad, and I was there most every day attempting to help her out. Unfortunately even though she loved and cared for dad very much the 7X24 stress finally got to her after only about three years (2007-2010). We finally put dad in an assisted living (and subsequently moved him several times because of issues perceived and real) and mom visited very often. Still, even this situation was stressful for her, but she was able to be at home and attempt to relax. Dad died on 2/15/2013 and neither of us have any regrets about having put him in an environment where he would be cared for.

Here are some things I would consider before deciding to quit your job:
Are you prepared to have an elderly "child" to care for 7X24? This care will include feeding, toileting, dressing, bathing, monitoring behaviors, etc...All the things that go with raising a child only in reverse. As the dementia progresses skills and abilities decline rather that progress as with a child.
Are you ready to accept the happy times as well as the sad times, trying times, bittersweet times and do you understand the happy times will seem to become less and less?
Do you have any siblings that can help you with your parent when you need break? And do you understand that you WILL need a break? You may feel at this point that you won't, but read the conversations all over this site - you will need some time for yourself.

It is imperative that you understand that you cannot do it all yourself no matter how hard you try and how much you desire to.

Here's something else to consider:
Can you move your parent(s) closer to you into a facility so you can participate actively in their care?
What will you do when your parent's time is over? Will you be able to easily resume your career? Again, look at the site and see conversations from people who have quit their jobs to care for their parents and see what they have been able to do in terms of getting back to work. For myself as I said I was an IT pro for over 20 years. I have been "out" of IT since 2002. I have been unable to even get an interview for contract work much less permanent work. I have plenty of "life" left in me (I'm in my early 50's) and just because my skills have not been used in a few years I CAN do the work I did before. I have a recruiter actively looking for me and he feels that I can do the work too; the problem is the hiring managers. They feel I've been gone too long from the work force. At this point I'm working part-time in a gas station for little more than minimum wage to get out of the house before I really pull every bit of my greying hair out and give me a little bit of income while I continue to search for an IT opportunity.

My heart goes out to you and completely understand your desire to help. I'm not trying to talk you out of anything, but you do need to go into this journey with your eyes wide open.

Hugs and prayers for you while you contemplate this very important decision.

Doc1 answered...

I think Frances gave you some sound advice I would only add have you considered having the parent moved to where you live so you could keep your job and possibly find someone that could help you watch after her where you now live? If you can afford to quit your job that is fine,but you have to look after your future as well. Social Security takes the last 35 working years to decide what you draw when you retire if that is not a concern then quitting your job may be ok Just do not let your heart wind you up in trouble in the future. Check the area you live in as we have started noticing day care sitters around where we live only you take them to the person just like you would a child to a baby sitter or day care This is a time to think and let your head dictate what to do not your heart. My wife went and got my mom to stay with us for a while it lasted 22 years. Mom mind was good though and we still had a few rough days over the years Hope you the best

Ca-claire answered...

Doc1 and FrancesC have given very sound answers. My family and I have been very blessed in that Mom and Dad conserved their resources well, and actually made more money after they retired than they had before. They always said they would never live with any of us kids, and they haven't.

We moved them to a Senior Living Facility to the Independent Living side, even though we knew it was time for Assisted Living. The AL apartments were too small to even consider. Once Dad spent a week in the hospital, we moved them to AL, which meant downsizing them again. Turned out OK. Mom died almost a year after being moved to AL. Dad is still there.

As the family 'caregiver', I set my limits early on with the siblings - two live more than 5 hours away, and one lives about an hour away. I would not do any toileting assistance. Once they were at that stage, it was time to hire help. During Mom's final illness - lasted 10 weeks (in home hospice) - we had 24/7 caregivers during the last 5 weeks. It's difficult enough to be responsible for managing the care. Living with someone requiring 24/7 care would wear you out. When people say it's like caring for a child, it really isn't. The 'child' in this case may weigh more than you, and will be stubborn as heck about anything, or may be completely passive and you are trying to move 150-250 pounds of dead weight (demanding deadweight). If it can be afforded at all, have caregiving help or have them in a facility near to you so that you may be involved in their care.

Wish you the best.

Doc1 answered...

CA-Claire You are so correct ,we were fortunate with my mom she seldom ever needed any help There is way more involved when you go to thinking about taking care of a loved one and can easily drain you to nothing You become kind of a slave in a home as you have to do it all You added a lot to think about with your post . I will only add it stops one from just jumping up and going somewhere for a weekend or a night,vacations are over with having friends over can be taxing .your social life is about ended You did the correct thing with your parents some families are not that fortunate