A Juggling Act: Work and Caregiving

jamies mother
Jamie's mother

When her mother’s dementia progressed, Jamie from Alabama stepped up to help her remain at home. She is one of the 42 million Americans who give their hearts as family caregivers every day, helping older parents, spouses or other loved ones live independently, with dignity.

“We all pitched in to help,” Jamie said. “In the early years, it was possible for us to take turns having her stay in our homes for several months at a time. Her illness had not yet progressed to the point where she could not be alone, so I continued to work my full-time job while she stayed with me. I had to juggle work responsibilities with doctor appointments, a couple of surgeries and cooking meals, as I did not feel she should do that anymore on her own. ...

I frequently felt that I needed to be in two places at once — at home and at work. - Jamie 

>> Read Jamie’s story

Family caregivers at work

Jamie is one of the 42 percent of U.S. workers who have been caregivers for aging loved ones in the last five years. In fact, most family caregivers work full or part time while caring for their parent, spouse, aunt, uncle or other loved one. Here are the facts:

  • The majority (68 percent) of family caregivers report making work accommodations because of caregiving duties including: arriving late/leaving early or taking time off, cutting back on work hours, changing jobs or stopping work entirely.
  • Family caregivers age 50 and older who leave the workforce to care for an aging parent lose, on average, nearly $304,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime.
  • Nearly half of U.S. workers expect to be providing care in the next five years.


You shouldn’t be asked to choose between caring for your loved one and keeping your job

Many American workers have no paid or unpaid sick leave. This means they face loss of pay — or loss of their jobs — if they need to take time off from work to care for a loved one. Yet, like Jamie, they still tackle remarkable responsibilities, juggling their work and caregiving tasks. I know firsthand how challenging this can be.

Watch my family’s story:

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That’s why AARP is fighting for workplace flexibility, like family leave or paid or unpaid sick leave, to support family caregivers as they balance work and caregiving responsibilities. We’re also advancing model state legislation that would:

  • Let employees use their existing sick time to help care for a family member; or
  • Give employees a few hours of unpaid time each year to help care for their loved ones; or
  • Allow employees unpaid leave to take their loved ones to the doctor, in the same way 15 states allow employees to take unpaid time off to attend parent-teacher conferences and school events.


Help us fight for you

Your stories are the road map to these commonsense solutions that can make big responsibilities a little bit easier. So if you’re a family caregiver, we want to hear from you. How do you juggle work and caregiving? Share your story at aarp.org/iheartcaregivers — and together we can fight for you.

>> Share your caregiving story

If you are a family caregiver, you’re not alone.


Elaine Ryan
Elaine Ryan is the vice president of State Advocacy and Strategy Integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

Follow Elaine on Twitter: @RoamTheDomes.


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