Enjoy Taking Care of People? Try Adult-Sitting

Jesse Wagstaff under Creative Commons

Many people wind up needing at-home care as they age or develop illnesses. While a nurse is often the ideal caregiver for a sick or elderly loved one, they can be prohibitively expensive for many families.

A more affordable alternative can be an adult-sitter: a trusted individual who prepares meals, cleans up, helps their charge take medication on time and entertains them. An adult-sitter is not trained as a nurse and can’t take on that role, but can help a family care for their loved one and charge less for his services. It’s not always an easy position, but it can be a good earning opportunity for a caring individual looking for a way to earn extra money.

When a family friend’s husband developed both Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer, my husband took adult-sitting for a test drive. He’s not a nurse, but by offering to stay with the friend during the day, he was able to help them out and earn some cash at the same time. Here’s what he learned from his experience, as well as tips to help you get started as an adult-sitter.

What Does an Adult-Sitter Do?

During my husband’s first foray into adult-sitting, he was responsible for reminding the gentleman to take his medications on time, feeding him lunch and keeping an eye on him in case of a fall. Thankfully, during the three weeks that my husband adult-sat this gentleman, he did not experience any falls, but my husband still kept a watchful eye on him wherever he went.

As a stay-at-home dad, my husband was able to take our one-year-old daughter with him every day. He brought his computer to keep himself entertained, since the gentleman took long naps during the day. While his charge was awake, they would make conversation, watch TV, play card or board games, or play with our daughter. He was never bored!

As a bonus, if your charge takes long naps like my husband’s did, you could also get paid for two jobs at once.

How to Get Started as an Adult-Sitter

While there aren’t any standard qualifications for the role, aspiring adult-sitters should be caring and compassionate; you have to love helping people. You should also make sure to have training in first aid and CPR. If you’re serious about adult-sitting, medical staffing companies such as Sitter’s Companion or BrightStar Care offer on-the-job training courses that result in a Personal Care Aide (PCA) Certification.

Once you’re ready to get started, offer your services to friends with aging family members who need support and company. The individual should be healthy enough that health insurance won’t yet cover the costs of a nurse. While many families would likely love to have a nurse before their insurance company deems it necessary, many can’t afford the daily $180 to $400 cost — and that’s where you come in.

How Do You Find Adult-Sitting Jobs?

Like finding babysitting or nannying work, the most effective way to find an adult-sitting job is word-of-mouth. If you have time on your hands and hear of a family member or friend recovering from surgery, offer to sit with and take care of them for a small fee. Make it clear that you know this is a delicate time in their lives, and that the arrangement would be beneficial to both parties.

Word-of-mouth is effective because many families are (understandably) nervous to put their loved one in the hands of someone they don’t know. Even a well-recommended friend-of-a-friend is better than a stranger, and will be much cheaper than a nurse or an adult daycare.

You could also post your adult-sitting services on Facebook, reaching people in your area who you may not know directly, but who are friends with one of your friends. The bottom line: The family you work for needs to trust you. When approaching a family about elder care, be sure that everything you say and do instills confidence and trust.

Other sites such as Craigslist, Care.com, or Sitters.com allow you to post your services, skills, qualifications, experience and rates, though some will charge a fee. Be sure to use caution when posting your services publicly. Always make sure to check out potential clients and clearly outline your rates as well as the scope of your services well in advance of the start date.

How Much Do Adult-Sitters Get Paid?

Adult-sitting rates vary greatly, according to my research. However, they closely mirror nanny rates. For example, on Care.com, nanny wages are between $10 and $15 an hour, and senior care wages start at $10 and go all the way up to $25 an hour depending upon experience and qualifications.

My husband charged $70 for an eight-hour day, which works out to $8.75 an hour. Where we live, minimum wage is $7.25, so he did pretty well considering he was able to take our daughter to work with him. This means that over the course of three weeks, he earned $1,050 that we immediately put toward paying down debt!

Just like babysitting, if you want to earn top rates, you’ll need experience. Families are more likely to trust you if you can provide positive references, such as prior paid adult-sitting experience or even helping a loved one without pay while they were ill. Working or volunteering in an assisted living facility would also add to your adult-sitting resume.

Your Turn: Would you work as an adult-sitter? Have you tried it before?

Gretchen Lindow is an accountant, personal finance blogger at Retired by 40! and personal finance writer for hire.  While she’s not hiking or camping with her husband and daughter, she’s writing about all things finance and family at Retired by 40!