Caregiving and Early Retirement

Hello, I've been a member of AARP for 6 years, but this is my first time on the forum. I am currently wrestling with what I should do to take care of my elderly mother. It's a long story, but I will try to be brief. I'm 56 years old and lost my job 2 years ago. I'm currently employed in a job that I absolutely hate. My mother took a fall a few weeks ago and fractured her pelvis. She is currently in a Nursing Home getting rehab, but it is temporary. I know her recovery will take some time. However, my biggest concern is her cognitive abilities. She has a hard time thinking of the words she means to say and she gets very confused later in the day. I feel she will need someone to keep an eye on her. I plan on moving in with her as soon as she is released from rehab. My dilemma is what to do about my job. I would greatly like to retire, although I know it's early for me to do so. But, I need health insurance. I'm sure hating my job and the betrayal I felt from the previous job has a lot to do with that attitude.  Furthermore, I want to be there for her whenever she needs me. I post this to get suggestions from others as to their recommendatiions for this situation. Should I retire? Take a leave of absence? Right now I'm using FMLA. Should I work from home? Any suggestions on work from home jobs? Obviously, I'm confused and a bit stressed right now. Any advice, tips, or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Marjorie St Clair
AARP Expert

Hi Marjorie,


     I think Amy and Jane have already given you great advice about finding a financial advisor and considering your job options. I just want to underscore what you said: You're feeling overwhelmed. As Amy pointed out, that is no time to make life-changing decisions. I think you should punt for time as long as you can in order to get advice from professionals and friends and carefully consider all options. In the near-term, that may mean not spending the day at the rehab with your mother but instead doing the research and thinking--or simply having a cup of  coffee and clearing out your mind--that you need to go forward with this next phase of life. Your counselor should be able to help you weigh the pros and cons of each option.


     I also want to say something that is obvious but doesn't get said enough: You are a very good daughter to your mother. Whatever specific decisions you eventually make about your job, finances, and the caregiving plan are important, of course, but not nearly as crucial as the fact that you care and are there for her and will help her live as well as she can for as long as she can. With that in mind, there are no wrong decisions.


     I wish you clarity and courage. Please keep us apprised of how you're progressing on this path. Take care, Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D., co-author of AARP Meditations for Caregivers

AARP Expert

@mstclair62 Hi Marjorie! So glad you reached out. You are considering all of the right issues as you face this decision. Health insurance, long-term financial effect and work issues.


I strongly urge you to talk with a financial advisor about the long term implications of your various choices before making any decisions. You could also find out how much health insurance will cost if you are self-employed. If you are not working at all you might qualify for Medicaid for health insurance. 


Another option is to do this in phases. It's so hard to make decisions when in a crisis! I know your mom will only be in rehab so long, so there is pressure. Are there immediate steps you could take temporarily to give yourself time to look at all of the other options and long-term implications? Such as maxing out your FMLA first, taking a leave of absence (if you did so would you still receive the company's health insurance?) etc. 


As a caregiver for many years, I truly understand the dilemma you're facing. I quit my full time job and became a consultant/self-employed in order to move across the country and care for my parents. That was 9 years ago and my Mom died 5 years ago and my Dad just died 4 months ago. So - I get it! It was actually less stressful for me to have my parents live with me so I could provide more of their care. But I also had paid caregivers to help.


Health insurance is a major factor. But also saving for your own retirement is a factor. That's why it's so important that you look at all of the possibilities with a financial advisor and gather all of your information about what your income would be if you retired etc. 


I just want to also remind you to take care of yourself! You're facing some major life transitions and issues here all at once - job changes, possibly retiring or stopping work or cutting back to part-time, your mother's aging and facing health challenges, potentially's a lot! Some counseling for you might be very helpful, and/or a caregiver support group. You can look for local resources in AARP's Community Resource Finder Your area agency on aging (which you can find with that tool) usually has a list of local support groups if you call them. 


This is a great article about jobs in which you can work from home: Great Work from Home Jobs for Retirees


Please let us know how else we can help! And keep us posted on your decision, as we have lots of great information that can help depending on what you decide to do! 


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and

Color Your Way Content When Caring for Loved Ones




0 Kudos

Thank you, Amy, for your very helpful response. I have been using much of my FMLA since Mom's accident. I think I've probably used about half of it. I also have thought about taking a leave of absense but I need to look into that further. At this time, I do not have paid caregivers to help. I am an only child, so it is basically just me at this point. I am already getting counseling. I actually started going to counseling before my mother's accident as I've had a very difficult time coming to terms with the loss of my previous job. I was there for 20 years and I had expected to retire from there. It through all my so-called plans into chaos and left me feeling distrustful, angry, and betrayed. 


I do have my 401K from my previous job which is good, but I'm not sure if it is enough to sustain me. I also have another retirement fund consisting of 401K's from other employment. However, it is not much. I've considered finding a financial advisor but really don't know a lot about them for around here. I will have to research that.


I guess my biggest concern aside from the steady job income is the health insurance. I'd like to work from home so that I can be there for my mother, but most of the jobs I find are part-time, freelance or contract and don't offer insurance. I would need to make enough to pay for my own insurance. I have a Masters in Social Work which hasn't been all that helpful in the job market around here (maybe they think they would have to pay me too much).


Much of what you mention, I have been thinking about. I think I needed confirmation that I was on the right track. Furthermore, I have so much going through my mind right now that making any kind of decision is difficult for me and it's rather overwhelming. 


Thanks again for your recommendations, I will look into some of the resources you mentioned as well. I'm very appreciative of AARP and all it does for us. I just hadn't realized I would need their assistance so early. 


Marjorie St. Clair

Marjorie St Clair
AARP Expert

Hey Marjorie,

Amy Goyer's advice is always so right on. I too am glad you're in counseling, since you are young and have what, 30+ years ahead of you? I personally don't want you to make decisions now that will cost you a happier future. And meaningful work is very important, whether or not it is for pay. Young as you are (I'm 59. "Old" is 13 years older than my age. And you're young!) i hope you'll be happy in the next step you take for your vocation.


I'm curious that you have an MSW. So do i. I also jumped through the hoops and took the test so that i can practice independently as a licensed clinical social worker (in Oregon it's an LCSW. In DC it was an LICSW.)  I've enjoyed a varied, stimulating career for 30 years doing mostly medical social work, in all kinds of settings, pretty much EVERY setting except for long term care. I've worked in acute hospitals, outpatient (cancer & neuro) clinics, home care, hospice care, geriatric care management. Now i'm a psychotherapist/ behavioral health consultant in a primary care clinic in an area of Oregon that is so rural it's called "frontier."  I've also done health education for a small multimedia company that couldn't make a go of it but i learned a lot.

All that is to say that I'm surprised that your MSW isn't doing more for your employability.  Have you been out of social work for a while? If you ever decide to move to a rural area, you would be employed in a new york minute. I got out here without a job and got snapped up fast. For 30 years' experience i make a fine living although my nephew made more than i EVER have as a web designer for a large company in DC RIGHT OUT OF COLLEGE. So not fair.  But i can live on what i make and put some away and i always have meaningful work.


What do you want to do? Ideally? What do you love to do?  AARP has some amazing resources on how to find interesting work as an older adult. There IS agism out there. But you are a seasoned human who would be an asset wherever you land, right? I hope your counselor can help with this. Maybe get "The Artist's Way" and do some of those creativity exercises. Think big, think broad, think outside every box.


Your mother may need you a bit or a lot following this challenge, but what i don't want you to do is cut yourself short just because you're experiencing a low period and a lack of imagination.


In addition to a financial manager for yourself, your mother needs to plan ahead. What are her assets like? How can she fund her future needs? And if she can't, when will she be eligible for long term Medicaid, which can pay for home care in some places. As Amy mentioned the area agency on aging is a great resource, and free: takes you there when you type in her zip code.


From one social worker to another, hang in there, and don't sell yourself short!

Jane, MSW

frontier eastern oregon

AARP Expert

@mstclair62 Marjorie my heart goes out to you! I know so well that feeling of being on the brink of big change and trying to figure out what to do. There is value in trusting yourself sometimes. You are figuring this out. Glad you have counseling help to think/talk through the options. It really is twice as hard to make decisions when you are already dealing with the feelings of loss from your job - and it's really loss of your life plan - that job threw a major wrench into your plans! 


I do hope you can find a financial advisor who can help you think through the financial/insurance pieces of the puzzle. Here are two articles that might be helpful in finding one:

Keep us posted! And let us know how else we can help!


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and

Color Your Way Content When Caring for Loved Ones



0 Kudos
Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Ask the Expert: Social Security

Discuss your thoughts about the 2022 Social Security cost-of-living adjustment with AARP experts - and ask a question to earn 50 AARP Rewards points. Join the discussion now.

AARP Make Your Move Contest 2021

Enter Today! Ends 10/22/2021. See Official Rules

Test Your Knowledge, Score Big. New Game Each Day!

AARP's new Right Again! Trivia game - part trivia, part puzzle, all fun! Special opportunities for AARP Members and Rewards participants. Play Now.

AARP Right Again! Trivia

AARP Rewards

Activate AARP Rewards to earn points for games, quizzes and videos. Redeem for deals and discounts. Get started with AARP Rewards now!

AARP Rewards Badge

Music and Brain Health

From soft jazz to hard rock - discover music's mental, social and physical benefits. Learn more.

Music and Brain Health