This is a very hard post for me to write not because I don’t have the answers and experience. It is the hardest post for me to write because it has me remembering the toughest time in my life. This was when I was managing my mother having cancer and then being hospitalized for three months and then being bedridden unable to be fully independent while working to make my own living.
Many nights I wished she would die. Yes, I can shamefully admit that. Simply because I wasn’t sure I could keep on caring for her well. Mind you, I had an amazing brother and helper and neighbors and staff and we all pulled our weight. However you will realize if you are walking through this path now or in the near future that it takes at least 2–3 people to care for each adult dependent and unlike most little children whom you can lift easily and whose emotions are usually lighter and more cheery; with the sick and aging the entire emotional mood of the house usually takes a downward plunge as they come to terms with their body being a prison and you come to terms with being imprisoned emotionally and physically with them.
I cannot speak for everyone — I am sure others have managed to care for ill and sick more graciously and in a more spirited manner than I can but I am sure my experience is one shared my the majority of caregivers.
On top of the challenge of death, pain, mortality and unresolved family issues and life disappointments — all of which suddenly come to the fore in such times; what is always on one’s mind, is the money. Where will we get the money to pay for all this? And how can I the one who has another 50 over years of life be able to bounce back or recover financially after taking the time off to do this self sacrificing act? Did I make a huge mistake exchanging the prime years of my career or money making to do this?
Why I made the decision to slow down my work and care for mom was because she was the one who cared for dad in the home as he battled cancer and died 9 months after the first diagnosis. I saw her give herself to that role and I knew I wanted to be able to be there for her the way she was there for him. However at 32 when I just got back from Harvard with an empty bank account from my Masters only to find her with cervical cancer, I broke down in tears at the Church we grew up attending. I was panicked and all my traumatic memories of watching my father slowly fade away only less than 2 years ago surfaced. I was the one who took her to the doctors and sat with her the most as I was able to. I changed my entire career path to accommodate the care-giving needed. Instead of a full time job, I taught part time at the local universities and polytechnics. I taught night classes because at night she didn’t need me to bring her to the doctors and then she was still mobile. I graded scripts while sitting at hospital waiting rooms in long queues and empathized greatly with the overworked health care system. I didn’t have much of a social life because I was saving for a Phd and so I taught, saved and lived with mom. This first brush with death was now in hindsight a breeze, as mom was in good spirits and we were both fighting and were strong in spirits. I worked hard and I was young enough to bite the bullet.
It was when her stomach burst and she could not longer hold her food in her stomach and needed adult diapers and constantly cleaning that true survival skills had to kick in. The first three months she was in the hospital with 50–50 chance of survival and my brother and I rotated to be by her side. The hospital was an emotional landmine. I met other friends whose parents were ill. In fact one time a friend came in with his father who had swallowed a fish bone. Simple, small, unexpected and no one expected that he would die 2 days later. My mom lived. However we collectively watched and heard the cries of many in pain in those nights at the ward as she was in the high emergency ward. One where people aren’t recovering, they were still fighting to stay alive. I believe my baptism by fire to be the bootstrapped entrepreneur and problem-solver I am today was borne out of that intense experience.
I saw many love one sit for days with no one visiting because their family and friends had to work. Weekends was like a celebration because they were not alone in a room of others equally alone. I saw domestic helpers be the everything to this older person and then I didn’t have a helper for my mom, but when my mom had a relapse and I came back from my business trip to see both my cleaning lady and live-in helper surround my mom, my heart was filled with such gratitude that they took us for more than just employers but true friends. They were the ones who told me to go and rest because I came immediately from the plane to the hospital with luggage in tow. They were there for her, I could rest. I saw young mothers with cancer and their little children on their beds and my heart simply broke.
For those who don’t know me, I am a doer. I kinda get things done to make the situation better. When cornered I come out fighting, beware! And so it took all of me to figure how I was going to be able to go to the hospital and see mom and make money. Later stay home for a month to care for mom while waiting on a domestic helper for mom and finally making a career that can last these major drop out of mainstream periods when mom relapsed. In essence I found 7 ways to make money while caring for a sick or dying loved one. I am sharing this with tears in my eyes so that it may benefit others who are facing this period of darkness.
- Sell for friends who have their own business
I have always admired entrepreneurs and business owners who make products and services and have people buy them. So I have always simply collected them as friends and learn from them. When my mom was ill, I started promoting my friends’ restaurants and nail services and facials and asked that they give me discounts for when I use their services. This was a very helpful transaction for both of us. They got someone to market for them to new clients. I received discounts and sometimes commissions. And I believed in them and could spend more time talking to them to strength our friendship bonds. Even if the return was a free meal, I save on a price of a meal.
My largest sales commission here was for SGD1000. I sold a business solution from one friend’s company to another’s. I heard the need my food industry friend was having and so gave him the connection to my friend in marketing. They have now gone on to be great friends as both want help the other’s business be successful.
2. Partner with someone with complementary skills sets to make something and sell it online
I am a psychologist and the mission of the company is “ Building Peak Performing Leaders and Communities” — so I consider myself working whenever some one learns how to manage stress better or grow an amazing team or becomes more impactful or innovative. So I made the product http://theamazingyou.com/go/index4.php with the help of an online marketing partner. This product is a self help guide to anyone who wants to find their way and grow their meaning and impact in life. Find something you can make from home and sell it to the world. Do make sure you have a great marketing system because if you do not, then there would be little or no sales. This partnership gave me regular passive income till now. Small yes, initially because we wanted an evergreen product and not to make it a large launch given that my time was mostly taken up by family affairs. However it was the best partnership and learning for me. I am doing my next product now.
3. Be a Coach
I make 20% of my yearly revenue from coaching. This means I coach people to reach their goals. I usually coach leaders in companies who are transiting from a smaller team to a larger team and role. I also coach people to manage bad habits like anger and stress so that they can function optimally. Many life coaches charge USD$125–250 a session if they have an established practice and good word of mouth. I am on a higher end because I work in executive coaching and with senior leaders. My certification in coaching and experience saved me as I could coach from anywhere in the world. I had honed my phone skills to coach on phone calls and with Skype we can see the clients and it is still very personal. Many of the students who attend the Behavioral Coaching Institute that I am faculty of; are actually senior leaders in Human Resources and CEOs who see this as their retirement career. http://1to1coachingschool.com/Singapore_Coaching_Course.htm
If you are not a coach, what could be the support that you can offer remotely? Go to any of the online freelancers sites and see what you can do from home. I have considered being an online tutor, editor etc
4. Learn to write Copy and be an affiliate for Online Products
What is Copy? I only learn this term less than 4 years ago when my marketing partner told me we had to get someone who is known to write emails that sell well. This was when I learnt that online marketers automate responses to sell products as and when the client comes into contact with the product for the first time online. It’s like having a conversation with the potential buyer that is so intimate and real like we would have in the shoe shop in a mall and so find the perfect shoe for that person and they walk out of the shop smiling. That is what the copywriter has to do. Make them want to buy because they feel they match and need that product.
This is the skill I am learning and learning and learning to do now. Then I sold some products whose creators I knew personally and whose effectiveness I was sure of. I sold Rick Hanson’s products, ph360.me by Matt Reiman, World Business and Executive Coaching Summit and books which I was co-author. My largest sale was USD$2200.
Selling online products is similar to selling a product off line in that you really need to know the buyer and what they would like and the price they would be willing to pay. However it is also more complex because the buyer may not always know what they want — unlike when I sold my friend’s Italian restaurant or makeup range or dresses. Educating the market is a big part of the work I do especially in the coaching and personal development and leadership space. However I believe everyone should learn marketing and sales online because in the end this is a skill we need to use for branding ourselves on Linkedin, selling off our furniture when we move and getting a match on Match.com!
5. Write that Book, Get Funding and Sell it
I wrote my book when mom was ill — I had time and was stuck at home. And I crowdsourced to get people to buy it before it was printed. This mean that people paid money to me before it was printed and that helped cover the costs. Here are the historical links if you are curious and want to do this yourself. I prefer you look for fresh resources because I am sure by now there are even more features and platforms whose audience may be larger or a better match to your ideal reader. https://publishizer.com/are-you-ready-to-turn-gen-y-on/ and https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/making-turning-gen-y-book-how-get-funding-self-marion-neubronner
Ironically I was awarded Linkedin Top 200 Social Sellers Asia that year because I was aggressively promoting the book! I didn’t even know how to optimize Linkedin then, I was just putting content in regularly and reaching out to potential readers and so extending my network outside of my comfort zone. Linkedin is a great way to promote things for the right audience as you can tell people’s interests from what they write and share and do. Facebook for me is for personal friends even though I allow the public to access it. So while I do promote some things on Facebook to me that is simply telling my friends what I am up to.
Beyond all these things to do to survive financially, I believe having something you can do apart from being a full time care-giver allows you to connect with the world outside and also ensures you build sales, marketing and problem solving skills you can show your next employer even when on your CV those months or even years seem bare.
I know it can be the darkness nights and the most challenging of days. I have been there with you. Remember your happiness and fulfillment matter too. While this person may be sick and even dying, you are very much alive and you need to live fully emotionally and being productive in small ways keep you feeling relevant and not lose yourself in the pain of the upcoming potential loss. I know my work became sacred just like my care-giving was. I learnt to balance work and care giving by being more focused on promoting and problem solving for others through writing and calling. It was a life-line to a world outside the smallness of the home and it gave me something else to speak about to friends apart from a dying mom.
I hope whoever you are that reads this. Find hope, focus and a new working life that pays for your family’s needs while you manage this time of distress.
Remember 10 years ago, you and I would have had to put them in a hospice or caregiving center, we are blessed now to be able to care and still connect with the world. There are many great free resources online which we can learn from and it may not be easy at the start, however it is possible. I wish you the best always.