When I learned Laura Spencer, of Writing Thoughts, had juggled a home business with caring for her father, as well as her family, I thought some of her tips would be helpful for other home business owners who are in the midst of this, too. They’re part of the “sandwich generation” with responsibilities in numerous directions. Even if your business doesn’t involve writing, Laura’s tips should help you.
Juggling Caring for a Loved One With Your Home Business
By Laura Spencer
When Mary Emma asked me to write this guest post I was hesitant for two reasons. First of all, it’s been less than a year since Dad died and the memory is still somewhat painful. Secondly, I don’t feel that I was able to do what I did for my father on my own, I really feel that it was primarily the grace of God saw me through the past few years.
To Summarize My Situation: I left my corporate job in 2002 to spend more time with my (then) elementary school aged children. A home business seemed the perfect solution and I began to explore my alternatives. Just as I was starting to get a few clients for my business I found myself overseeing the care of both my parents who were elderly and had become ill. Sadly, my mother died after a short time, but my father (who suffered from the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease) remained my responsibility until his death early this year.
Until my father died this year, my schedule nearly every day was to get up early and work on writing projects for clients until noon. About one thirty each day, I would leave the house and go to the nursing facility where my father was staying to check on him and to visit. If the kids were home from school, I would try to include them on those visits. Sometimes I would stop at a nearby gym to work out after visiting my father.
If I had not met my goal for writing for the day, I would continue to write each evening for a few hours after the kids went to bed. Despite being squeezed between the demands of caring for my parents and my kids, my small business survived and even grew.
Pointers for Caregiver/Business Owner: Here are some pointers for keeping your business running when you have the responsibility to care for a critically ill loved one:
- 1. Focus on quality. Where my work is concerned, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I proofread each document multiple times. I believe that my focus on quality is what keeps clients returning with additional projects for me to work on.
- 2. Work ahead. I don’t believe in waiting until the last minute. Working ahead proved to be a real advantage on those days where a minor crisis came up and I missed getting my morning work done.
- 3. Take time off only when really necessary. There were several times that I had to inform a client, either that I would be unable to take a project or that I would be late finishing it. Each time I was specific about the situation. For example, “I can’t take any projects right now because my mother’s in the hospital on life support.” “My father has gone into hospice and I’m spending all my time with him right now.” To my amazement, nearly every client understood.
- 4. Stay part-time. I deliberately kept myself part-time while I was overseeing my parents. To me, this meant working 30 hours or less. There were times that I said “no” to a new project or client that I knew would tax my energy.
Additional Tips: Here are some tips if you find yourself responsible for overseeing the care of someone who is ill:
- 1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. At first I wanted to care for my father from my own home. I quickly saw that I was physically unable to meet the needs of a 6 foot 1 man who needed to bathed, dressed, and fed every day. I couldn’t even lift him by myself! Instead, I researched and was able to find a full-time nursing facility near my home.
- 2. Get rest. There were several times I spent the entire night in the Emergency Room because my father was sick. On these occasions sometimes I just had to go home and crash. In the long run, my getting rest was the best for all concerned. Getting rest kept me from getting burnt out.
- 3. Be an advocate. Because my father didn’t communicate very well at his late stage of Alzheimer’s, it was my responsibility to see that he was comfortable and to make his needs known to the facility where he was staying. Not only did I look to see that his basic needs were being met, I also checked to make sure that he was kept comfortable.
- 4. Ask questions. There were many times that I had to ask a staff member at the facility why they were doing what they were doing with my father. Several times these questions stopped what could have become a dangerous situation for my father. I also regularly asked questions to the doctor on rotation for the facility.
If the need arises, it is possible to juggle the care of a critically ill loved one with your home business. I hope that this post has served as an encouragement to others who might be facing a similar situation.
Laura Spencer is a WAHM and has been a freelance writer for the past five years. Laura blogs at Writing Thoughts, Work From Home Momma , and OpinionMom Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.