I resigned from my full time job to take care of my mother who was diagnosed with acute hepatitis B in May 2017. She was also having obvious symptoms of Alzheimer’s and no longer able for herself. A fall also affected her mobility. It was not a hasty decision but one that I have given a lot of thought. As my HR manager told me during my exit interview, he knew I had exhausted all possibilities before I submit my resignation letter.
There have been a lot of advice and views given by my friends who were genuinely concerned. Some of them had gone through similar situations before.
Based on my experience and sharing from friends, here are some honest questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to quit your full time job to take care of an elderly parent:
1.Do you have the financial means to sustain yourself?
This is one of the most important consideration before you decide to quit your job. Health care costs for an elderly parent is very expensive and if there are no financial means, then it is going to be very tough.
A few of my friends had to deal with a parent who was suffering from long term chronic illness, or bedridden, or suffering from cancer. At this time, the parent is no longer able to manage by himself or herself and would require full time care.
However, they had no financial backing and have their own families to support. In those instance, instead of quitting, they had to either hire a full time maid or send their parent to assisted care living.
Few years ago, a lady I knew had suffered from a stroke that paralyzed her from the waist down. Both the lady’s husband and her daughter took care of her full time. Her daughter could quit her full time job because financially the family was able to support her expenses.
As you do not know how long you would need to take care….you must have the financial means of at least fully supporting yourself and your parent for a few years.
2. Do you have what it takes to really take care of someone?
Taking care of another person is not always as perfect or noble as shown in movies. Sometimes, you would find yourself dealing with cranky, unappreciative, or having hurtful words hurled at you. You may also feel so exhausted and isolated if you are the only child or your other siblings are not be supportive.
If you do not know cooking or cleaning, it is a skill that you must pick up. You would need to learn to be patient, cheerful and positive when facing your parent.
If your parent is bedridden, then you need to know how to lift your parent, change diapers, feed, carry and bathe him/her.
If you have a bad temper, you seriously have to rein it in as you may hurt your parent’s feelings- and if you parent is already unwell and/or in pain, the hurtful words you say would further stab in their hearts making their situation deteriorate rapidly. If you caused this situation, you would carry regret and remorse for the rest of your life.
Therefore, you need to ensure you are mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for this noble task ahead of you. If the honest answer is that you know you do not have what it takes, then you may need to consider hiring a full time maid or sending to seniors day care based on yours/your family’s financial capabilities.
3. Would you get re-hired back if you decide go back to the workforce?
Unfortunately, taking care of an elderly parent is not something that can help in your job resume (even though everyone knows it is a noble thing that you do). Perhaps you would be caring for your parent for 5 to 10 years….. for certain fields, your skill may be obsolete by the time you re-enter the workforce.
It would also be tough for you to catch up with the quick and ruthless pace of the corporate world especially if you have been out of action for a few years.
My personal experience
I quit my job after doing some simple calculation and decided that I could live with less. As I learned 9 years ago when I first quit my corporate job (and re-enter it back 2 years later), savings can run out pretty quickly when you are not working. After discussion with my family, we sorted out the money part and I decided to be the one to quit the job.
My priority is to give the best care I know that no one would be able to give her. Even though my mom is weak, but she is still mobile and I want to do whatever I could to prevent another fall happening to her.
Love can really change and make a person do things that he/she normally would not do. All along, I disliked cooking and cleaning. I work well in office but was totally hopeless with the wok. I thought I had no talent in cooking because I had the ability to make an ordinary dish taste absolutely horrible.
But I made myself learn cooking because I do not want to give my mom MSG, high salt/sugar outside bought food. The specialist already warned that my mom must reduce salt intake. Also because we need to save money. I also learned to clean the house better.
With sincerity and perseverance, after a few months, I am able to cook food that are more and more editable.
Even though I provide the pointers above, but in truth, I also believe that things will always work out when you are making the choice that you knew in your heart is the right choice to make.
And, you would always be tested to see if you are sincere in your decision.
Almost right after I left my job, I had some strange eye issues. Worried that it may be a serious matter (since my mom had glaucoma a few years ago), I sought treatment and it cost me two hundred bucks. Not long later, my car air con broke down and I had to spend about six hundred to repair it (actually I had thought I wanted to bear with the aircon but I had felt suffocated and I worry what would happen if I were to ferry my mom). Then with my autobilling from insurance (a lump sum came as I am billed twice a year), groceries, phone, internet and my mom’s medicine….my credit card bill came out to about three thousand!
The reality came when I had to go and settle my card bills. When I had the job, I could settle my card bills without a thought. But since I also took a break from corporate life 9 years ago and re-enter the work force after 2 years, I sort of saw this coming and stuck to my decision.
My mom is my main priority because given her condition, I really don’t know how much time I got left with her.
But one day as I was resting, I thought about my blogs which I had neglected for a few years (my then day job was taking so much of my mental energy that I did not have time to write). I decided to resume in blogging and building sites which is what I really love to do.
To be honest, I only make very little directly from blogging. But blogging and building sites gave me something to work for and has an uplifting effect. In the past, there were so much I wanted to do but I did not have the time or energy. Now, I have time to work on my blogs, to find joy in little victories changes I made that delivered results.
Last month, I started a site on my free time to write about topics that I love on intranets (what I used to do) and Thesis wordpress theme (I feel sad that many have jumped ship to other themes- I refused to as I still believe in this theme). While writing, I also read up to keep myself updated of the trends- so much have changed in the 3 years since I was actively online. I also got requests to build websites focusing on content writing.
All of which, allows me to work from home so that I am fully able to take care of my mom. I work on my blogs/sites at the time she is resting or after settling all my household responsibilities.
Perhaps the situation apply a little for you. You may have interests/ hobbies that you wanted to do but never had the time. In between of taking care of your parent, you may be able to indulge your hobbies. You must give yourself permission to do something you enjoy because you also need to keep your spirits high and keep yourself motivated.
It should be something where the stakes are not high, ie having your livelihood to depend on this, else it would make you very stressed or feel more miserable when you need to put up with difficult clients. As a caregiver, you cannot afford to have this unnecessarily stress that will take its toll on you.
As you explore and improve your skills, perhaps you be able to establish your own vocation and find your true calling where you could financially sustain yourself without going back to the workforce 😉
Who knows, taking care of your parent (in your mom/dad’s time of need)…..which also affords you the space to find your true calling….something that you would never otherwise thought of doing or leaving your comfort zone had you been still be on your 9 to 5 job.