Working and Caregiving - Making It Work


“When dad had a stroke and passed away unexpectedly I knew it was going to be my time. Mom had been diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) about 10 years ago. There were ups and downs. Probably more downs than I realized. Dad took care of her. Dad took care of everything. That is who he was. He was a rock, a solid and stand-up guy. Looking back, I now know how much stress he must have been under. Caring for someone full time is not an easy job. But it’s my turn now,” Denise told me. “I just have to figure out how to care for mom and still earn a living.”

Denise is not alone.

According, to the 2015 AARP report, Caregiving in the US the average caregiver is a female aged 49.5 years old. It is no surprise that 6 out of 10 caregivers report being employed at some time in the past year. Furthermore, the report states, 56% of caregivers held a full-time job. Let’s face it, most Americans are not independently wealthy and able to sustain long periods of time without some income coming in.

“I tried to juggle it all” Karen said. “My work and caring for my husband with Parkinson’s Disease. But I began dropping the ball at work a lot. I also had to take off to take Jim to doctor’s visits and therapy. My employer suggested I take the advantage of Family Medical Leave Act.”

The FMLA, as it is commonly referred to was enacted in 1993. It is a United States federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. Employees are granted 12 weeks unpaid leave. As such they would be able to retain their employee group health insurance. They would also be guaranteed their position or one similar with equal pay would be available when they return.

12 Weeks Is Just Not Enough

While the act is good for many situations and there are a lot of benefits that would help, it is just not enough. Many caregivers still need to earn an income while caregiving. When caregiving for a parent or spouse with a chronic illness there is no way to determine when an employee would be able to return to work. The 12 weeks covered may help get past a crisis but will not benefit in the long run.

Working From Home

When Denise decided she needed to move back home to care for her mother she looked at her options. The great news is there are now a lot of options. With the availability to video conference checking in with an employer or client is easy. A lot of jobs can be done remotely.

Asking Her Employer to Allow Her To Work From Home

While this will not work in every job situation Denise had a job where this could work. Obviously, if you work in a hospital or a retail store working from home would not be an option. However, if you have a desk job where you do not have to meet with clients you may be able to work out an arrangement with your employer.

When approaching your employer about this idea you need to be mindful of a few things. Your employer has a job to do. While he may be sympathetic to your situation, the bottom line is the deal needs to make sense. In other words, what’s in it for him. Look at your work at home proposal from the boss’s point of view. How will it benefit him or the company? Craft your proposal to include items of interest to him. If your boss agrees to the arrangement you will need to be extra diligent about getting your work done on time. And communication is key to having a successful outcome.

Becoming a Consultant 

For employees who have held a title higher up on the ladder becoming a consultant may be a good fit. If you have certain knowledge or expertise about a particular industry your services may be sought after. Reach out to both past and present employers and co-workers to get started. Have a good LinkedIn profile.  And learn to use the service can help you to reach out to more prospects. Depending on how many connections you already have you may have a good referral network that can help.

The great news is with email and social media you can work to make those connections when the time is right for you. That may mean early in the morning before you are needed for caregiving duties. Or it could be in the evening after the day is done. You can also connect while sitting at a doctor’s office or anywhere else you have to wait for long periods of time.

There may be times when you have to meet face to face with a client. Make sure you have a good support system in place. Do not count on family or friends. They may let you down when you have a really important meeting to attend.

Make Sure You Are Covered

Sign up for a service like SYNERGY HomeCare.  Schedule a caregiver for a couple of days each week.  Knowing that you can always schedule an outside appointment on Tuesday and Thursdays mornings (or whatever you decide) will make life as a consultant so much easier. You will not have to check with a family member to see if they can help. You will know you are covered. If your client cannot meet on those days you can call SYNERGY HomeCare and add an additional day.

Do You Have Skills That Are Desired?

There are a lot of opportunities for freelance work if you have the skills. From writing to photography, research and social media management the opportunities to work from home are endless. Have you worked as an administrative assistant? That skill is very valuable to small startup companies and many freelancers. How about bookkeeping? Another valuable service that can easily be marketed.

What If You Do Not Have A Skill That Is Desired? 

A lot of skills can be easily learned online. Sara learned how to create websites for small businesses in her area. She took a few online courses and then just started playing around. She closed the deal on the first client she attracted, with a really low price. She knew that this lady would sing her praises if she was happy with Sara’s work. The lower beginning price was worth it. Sara got several referrals from her and now has a portfolio to show prospects. It also helped her to hone her skills.

“The great news is I feel like I am still in control of my life. I am able to take dad to the doctor, cook for him and do things during the day that I would not have been able to do with a typical job.” I work when it works for me! And I earn a decent income also.” Sara replied.

Places to Look for Freelance Work 

When you are just starting out you may want to connect with an online company. There are many who specialize in connecting freelancers with customers who need their services. Here are a couple of companies that you may want to check out.

Upwork is one that is very popular. In fact, since the merge with Elance and ODesk, Upwork is the largest network for freelancers. The site helps employers find freelancers in tons of different roles. Take a look at their website and chances are you will find a category that will work for you. There are over 100 different job titles to choose from. The company will take a percentage of your earnings so price your service accordingly.

If you are a designer you may want to check out 99Designs. This site has a unique twist. Employers submit their project with budgets and instructions. Designers them submit their work. The best design wins and gets paid. This is a bit of a gamble but if you are a really great designer it may be worth it.

LinkedIn recently launched Pro Finder.  People looking for a freelance expert can submit their job to LinkedIn. 5 Freelancers are chosen to submit a proposal. Having a really great profile on Linked In will help you.

With a little creativity, you can find a solution that will work for you and your unique situation. Make sure that you get the help you need to make it work. Working from home is still working and caregiving can be a full-time job. Don’t try to “Do It All!”

Chad Jolley

As the owner of SYNERGY HomeCare of Houston and as a son trying disparately to find help for his parents, Mr. Jolley has worked within the senior healthcare field for over a decade. Beginning his work overseeing the care of his father who became critically ill following a stroke in 2004, he has continued to develop his expertise by aiding seniors, adult disabled and veterans in their search for truly compassionate and dependable care through SYNERGY HomeCare. Mr. Jolley received his designation as a Certified Senior Adviser in 2007 and continues to use his years of knowledge and experience to help other families find the care and peace of mind they need.

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