As PF progresses, it is wise to address how long to keep working. It is common to wonder: How do I know when to stop? When is work harmful to my health? Can I make it financially? How do I obtain disability or early retirement?
These are all normal questions. Even if not employed full-time, we need to look at the activities we used to do and ask similar questions.
Before my PF diagnosis, I worked full time as a marriage and family therapist. I loved my job and didn’t want to stop. At first, I only needed supplemental oxygen when walking and could meet with my clients without using the assistance. After about a year of PF progression, I needed to use my portable oxygen concentrator during client sessions. The noise of the concentrator was very distracting to me, though my clients seemed fine with it.
As I worsened, my oxygen needs increased and my concentrator could no longer produce the amount of oxygen I needed to walk down the hall to the waiting room to greet my clients. At that point, I realized I needed to stop working. It was wearing me out and I was finally emotionally ready to leave.
Many things to consider:
Making the decision to stop working is complicated. It’s helpful to ask yourself some questions:
- Is working wearing me down?
- Can I apply for long-term disability (in the U.S.) or ill-health early retirement (in the U.K.)? How much income will I bring home?
- What other sources of income do I or family members have?
- What signs will tell me it is time?
- Is working taking precious time and energy I could use to take care of myself and live life more fully?
- Do I want to work until the end, or do I want to enjoy retirement and time with my loved ones?
- Is refusing to stop working a way to deny my illness’ seriousness?
We all wrestle with realizing the right time to stop working. It is a tough decision, especially financially. Most patients I know, including myself, feel they stopped working too late. I worked at least six months longer than I should have, which contributed to my disease worsening at a faster rate. Of course, hindsight is 20-20.
Study your answers to the above questions. Discuss different possibilities with your spouse and loved ones. Talk to your employer to see if working part time is a possibility. Check out the amount you would receive financially with early retirement. Crunch the numbers and see if you can retire soon. The time you have left is precious, and you deserve to make the most of the time you have left to live.
I’d love to hear from you
Have you stopped working? What convinced you it was time to stop? If you haven’t stopped, what are you wrestling with?
Please leave a comment below and share with those who could benefit via email or on social media.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.