Unemployed? Market yourself as a ‘caretaker.’

My extended family has loads of skill sets and garages full of equipment. They’re either professional electricians, plumbers, carpenters or mechanics or else they know enough about it not to wind up in the ER.

They’ll drywall or paint or landscape or bring over their log-splitters. They’ll help you wrestle a heating oil storage tank into place, or wire a surround-sound system for your man-cave.  They’ll cut down a tree or spread bark mulch or dig a hole right where you want it.

It’s a loose system of favor-trading. You need something, you ask. The guy or gal who can do it will eventually ask for something in return. Nobody keeps score. It all evens out – and even if it isn’t strictly “fair,” everyone is pretty happy with the arrangement.

I miss that kind of networking. Then again, I’m the one who moved away. It’s my own fault if I have to hire someone to do the kind of thing cousin Denny would have traded for.

A niche business opportunity

As families get smaller and relatives scatter around the country, I’m betting more work gets farmed out: Chores that require special knowledge, or that seem too overwhelming to do all by your lonesome. And if you live six states away you’ll pay some guy to clean out your elderly parents’ gutters or replace their front steps.

This is a niche business opportunity, and not just for nail-bangers. The most mundane skills could be vital to someone who is no longer able to do it himself. As the population ages, help is needed with housecleaning, rides to the doctor, yard work, grocery-shopping, bill-paying – the kind of things a son or daughter would do if he or she weren’t living a couple of thousand miles away.

If you’re unemployed, this could be a way to bring in extra dollars – or to start your own caretaking business. Sandwich-generation offspring are grateful to have some of the pressure taken off, and glad to know someone is looking in on their parents. An honest person with good references,  and maybe a personal bond, could probably write his or her own ticket.

If you don’t get along with older people (we can be cranky), then don’t offer your chauffeur services. Instead, put yourself out there as a gardener, fence-painter, dog-walker, garage-organizer or whatever you do well.

It would be more than just earning a living. You would provide quality of life by helping people remain independent.

Readers: Are you caring for aging relatives as well as your own offspring? Do you do this long-distance? Have you had to hire help? Did you hire through an agency or through word of mouth?

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  1. When my grandma was dying, she lived with my parents. They had hospice in the morning, but as time went on, she needed more help around lunch time – making sure she was okay, help going to the bathroom, etc.

    Through a friend of a friend, we found a CNA who needed more hours and was glad to be paid in cash. It worked out for a bit. We really needed a transport service to help take her to dialysis, but that unfortunately cost way too much. It was hard to find someone we trusted and knew to do this.

    This is where knowing and being involved in your community is so important.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Britta: Knowing the caregiver is vital. I’ve heard horror stories of personal attendants stealing from, neglecting and even abusing the people in their care.
      End-of-life issues are so hard. The hospice people who came in when my mother was dying were angels.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  2. I will tell you a secret for getting qualified help at a reasonable rate: your local community college. If your local college has a nursing program then it has nursing students (I recommed 2yr over 4 yr college due to the type of student, older with bills to pay). After they complete the first semester of nursing they are usually qualified to work as student nurse aids but may be unable to find jobs given the economy. We always had offers to be caretakers privately (and this was many years ago in a good economy). They usually know what they can and cannot due, have flexible hours and work for reasonable wages as they are not nurses, yet! Always an idea worth checking out.

    • Donna Freedman

      @CandiO: Good idea. It might also be a good place to advertise the other “caretaker” jobs, such as light cleaning, yard work, driving, etc. Students who work their way through school are hungry for these gigs because they may be fit into the ever-changing schedules each quarter.

  3. My dear, I would not consider you old!
    We trade tools around these parts, too. And on occasion, we lend out our husbands. They usually get sent back with the tool and well fed!

  4. This very much sounds like our life. I used to have “a guy” for everything and was sad to lose that network when I moved. After 15 years in our second location, I finally feel like we have a network built back up again. I have moved countless people and had no problem finding volunteers when it was time to move my mom to town. The free give and take is what makes a community really wonderful to be part of.

    I still struggle with finding good caregivers both for my mom and children. Being a working mom, I’m really jealous of the SAHM’s I know and their network of babysitting exchanges. I have yet to tap into a working mom version of that. I also have trouble trusting strangers. I’m not always the best judge of character, so I wouldn’t trust my screening abilities.

  5. My in-laws are in their 90s and 2 hours away by interstate. A year and a quarter ago they went from being able to care for themselves, to having 24 hour care in their home, to assisted living and finally to nursing care. Through it all Karen has found care-givers, helped decide what to take with them on each move, taken them to doctor’s appointments, found assistive equipment, kept us apprised of what is happening when we can’t be there.

    My husband visits every week or two but they couldn’t have stayed in their home town (their choice) without Karen. The guy that cut their lawn suggested her and we are so grateful that they found her. Karen is honest, caring, knowledgeable about aging issues, has a strong back (for lifting people and furniture) and has a great sense of humor. She’s worth every penny that they pay her and more.

    I know that our discovery of Karen and her care taking business was pure luck. I hope others in similar situations are so fortunate.


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