As told to Business Editor Dennis P. Carmody
I’m a girl from New York city who attended public and private schools, moved with my parents to Tinton Falls, NJ when they retired, went to college, got a job, met a guy, got engaged, quit my job, married, had two kids and for the next 35 years was a stay-at-home mom, helping my husband part-time with his business. I was never interested in a career.
Several years ago, my Mom fell and broke a hip. After surgery, she went to a nursing home for rehabilitation and three months later they said she was ready for discharge. She wanted to return to her apartment, so I hired live-in help. It didn’t work.
A nurse suggested assisted living and I began checking out communities in the area. It seemed expensive, and Social security and a small pension were all she had, so I started looking for help.
After lots of visits I found the right place for her. I learned that she could be eligible for a Veterans Affairs survivor’s pension, and filed the complex application. After six months, the VA “lost” it.
I called U.S. Rep. Rush Holt’s office for help and in two weeks the paperwork was “found” and the pension was approved, with back payments!
Next, I took on the responsibility for my Mom’s boyfriend. He had only Social Security, so I looked for help and found it in Medicaid. After a lot of work it was approved and I put him with my Mom.
Then the recession hit and our retirement fund dropped. I wanted to rebuild our savings, and I had learned a lot about assisted living. Coincidentally, I was asked by the administrator at the facility where I had placed my Mom if I would be interested in providing referrals. I agreed.
With no entrepreneurial experience, I started a website, named my business Ask-Carol!, and placed a Google ad reaching out to families in New Jersey who needed help finding and affording assisted living.
I offered my help for free (and still do). If one of my clients selects a community that I recommend, then I receive a referral fee from the community. If not, I get nothing but the satisfaction of knowing that I helped a family through a difficult time.
About 100 assisted living communities in New Jersey are on my recommended list. Ask-Carol! has been very successful and I’ve become known throughout the state. It is hard work, and I get requests for help seven days a week.
Three months ago I earned more than my husband for the first time, and he was very proud of me. I’ve also replaced the savings that we lost, and published a pamphlet on assisted living, “What’s Next for Mom?” which is available at my website.
It’s been a good feeling to know that I can still make a contribution not just to our own finances, but also to families who are in a panic and need someone to help. Now, I am hooked on my new career. Who would have thought it?