Enjoy the flexibility, earn an extra income and continue to stay active.
Freelance work can be a great way for seniors to stay active. You get to earn extra income and the flexibility freelancing provides, allows you to continue doing the things you enjoy as well. One such freelance opportunity is the caregiving route which two seniors have done and found enjoyment.
Still able to volunteer
For 72-year-old Gilbert Chua, he started working as a freelance caregiver in 2019. After retiring twice, first in 2010 as a backend administrator for UAE Schlumberger, and in 2019 from Navy Gateway Inns and Suites as a supply clerk, he wanted to continue to stay active in some way.
As this grandfather of one enjoys interacting with seniors through his volunteering with Lions Befrienders, he thought he could continue to do his part for seniors and chanced upon CaregiverAsia looking for freelancers. “It was not so much to gain additional income but more to keep myself active,” emphasised Gilbert.
So far, he has served four clients, who are middle-aged and seniors; two for medical escort services and two for care companion services. As a medical escort, he escorts clients to and from designated dialysis centres, while as a care companion, he interacts and listens to seniors. He also helps them organise their medications and reminds them to take them. He works six days a week and for a few hours each day.
“I am touched by the friendship and trust that has been built over time with my clients. Some of the clients care about me and even treat me as their friends. Sometimes, they even offer to buy me meals and drinks which I politely decline as they have already paid me for my services.”
Besides this, he also appreciates what freelancing brings. “I enjoy the flexibility. You work when you want to and where you want to, and you get to help others. At the same time, it keeps me not only physically as well as mentally active,” said Gilbert. As such, he is able to still continue his volunteering work with Lions Befrienders, which he does about two to three times a week.
As a result of COVID-19, he has become more cautious, and keeps himself and his clients safe. “I do the regular hand hygiene and wear a face mask at all times. I also change my clothing every day and wash my hair.”
Giving a sense of purpose
Lim Geok Tin shared that being able to work gives her a sense of purpose. Freelancing has also given her a chance to pick up basic computer skills. This great-grandmother of two has 55 years’ nursing experience with her last job as a nurse at Alexandra Hospital. After she retired at age 55, she wanted to continue working and joined Raffles Medical Group as a staff nurse providing nursing care to inmates. A few years doing that, she called it quits, and in 2018, found out about CaregiverAsia through a friend and became a freelance staff nurse with the organisation.
The 74-year-old said: “I decided to do freelancing as I can choose where, when and what I want to do, such as working in a specialist clinic where I am familiar with. I am always happy serving my patients. I don’t need the money but choose to work because I want to stay active.” Like Gilbert, she added that she enjoys the flexibility that freelancing brings as she is able to plan her own schedule, choose her own hours, and be “my own boss”.
As a locum nurse at various private specialist clinics, she provides nursing care to patients such as taking their blood pressure, dispensing their medications, etc. The number of hours each week she clocks depends on the clinics as it can range from a few hours to several hours a month, she said.
Geok Tin finds that freelancing is ideal for those who are financially-stable and looking to reduce their working hours. She added: “You can stay active and connected with the community, while earning extra pocket money.” During circuit breaker, she was not affected as she continued working in a clinic.
Options as a freelance caregiver
Elaine Lee, director of operations at CaregiverAsia, shared that freelancing is a growing trend. Besides freelance caregivers, there are taxi drivers, insurance or property agents, private hire drivers, food deliverers, IT professionals and sports coaches who are doing the work on a freelance basis.
“During our events and roadshows, we interacted with a lot of seniors, specially the Merdeka Generation. They are at the crossroads of retiring from their main jobs. Some are housewives who wish to remain active and occupy themselves as their children are all grown up.
“Freelancing is a good option for them. Seniors can choose their own hours and days. For instance, if they think six hours is too long, they can select shorter hour assignments. If they have their own activities on certain days, then they can choose assignments on other days instead,” said Elaine.
Seniors can choose from a number of freelance assignments with CaregiverAsia including popular assignments like a babysitter if they like children, a care companion if they like to interact and speak different languages, or a medical escort if they are able to accompany patients for appointments.
It is free to register as a freelance caregiver with CaregiverAsia. The organisation does not have any commission or agency fees taken from their caregivers, so if they state that their rate is S$20 per hour, they will get the full S$20. In addition, they are covered under the medical indemnity insurance for every assignment under CaregiverAsia, and they also receive the full support from CaregiverAsia’s 24-hour call centre.
Although there are no specific required trainings for freelance caregivers, CaregiverAsia encourages their caregivers to upskill themselves with WSQ (Workforce Skills Qualifications) courses that some of its partner organisations conduct, however, the caregiver will need to incur the cost.
So how much can one earn as a freelance caregiver? “This depends on the type of service and also the experience of the freelancer caregiver. For general services such as babysitting, care companion and medical escorting, the pricing range is from S$12 to S$25 per hour,” said Elaine, adding that those with special skills like Geok Tin, the cost would be higher from S$21 to S$30 depending on the kind of duties required. She explained that if it is a procedure request such as a change of NGT (nasogastric tube) or stoma care, the rate can range from S$80 to S$120 per procedure.
She shared that of the 12,000 freelance caregivers CaregiverAsia has, about 9.5 percent are above the age of 60. The oldest who is 84 years old is a medical escort. She also shared two stories of seniors who are freelance caregivers. One story is of a daughter who hired a care companion for her elderly father who had just gone through brain surgery. He enjoyed reading the newspaper and discussing current affairs but since his surgery, he could not read any more. So, a care companion was engaged to read the newspaper with him and also to chit-chat. Over time, the father became more jovial.
Another story is a babysitter, who is in her early 60s and is very gentle. Her children had gotten older and she wanted to continue to be socially-engaged so she decided to freelance. Her husband, who is her personal chauffeur, drives her to her assignments. She has received good reviews from the parents. Said Elaine, “She will always share her babysitting experiences with us. When she is free, she would come by to visit us in the office.”
** Those interested in becoming a freelance caregiver with CaregiverAsia can go to their website to register. They can also contact 6258 6683. Another way is to follow them on their Facebook page and sign up for their monthly free onboarding session that helps you register as a freelance caregiver.
There are other caregiving-related organisations that have similar opportunities for seniors including Homage, Jaga-Me and Coddle.