How to Work at Home When You Have Health Problems

Some people can’t work outside the home because they have medical problems.  However, many of these people are still able to work from home.  One of these people is Jason Darrell, a freelance copywriter and social media strategies consultant. I wanted to share his advice in this blog post.

Q. What kind of work do you do from home?


I’m a freelance copywriter and social media strategies consultant. The vast majority of my work is for one client, producing their website copy, social media content and distribution and am moving into outreach for them, too. In addition, I offer consultation services covering content marketing strategies and semantic data extraction optimisation for organic search. This service I offer via a Tele-SEO portal hosted by a well-respected digital marketing company based in Bavaria and can be a one-off or a series of training consultations, depending upon the need of the customer.

Q. What health problems or physical limitations do you have that prevent you from working outside the home?


Four conditions affect my health directly. Their subsequent treatments are further limiting factors.

First off, I have Perthes disease. It wasn’t diagnosed until I was 39, but is a condition that affects people in their childhood between the ages of four and eight years old. Having gone undetected for so long, the damage caused to my hips and cartilages by the mottling of the femoral head are irreversible without major surgery. The first operation (on my left thigh bone) being so unsuccessful, they’re not even entertaining the same procedure on the right thigh bone, even though Perthes is just as prevalent, there.

The presence of Perthes also caused my hips to grow ‘impingements’ – small growths of bone (in my case, on my hips) that prevent the femoral head rotating fully in the hip socket. The impingement on my left hip has been removed but, like the Perthes, remains on my right hand side.

When the surgeons cut me open to operate, they also found a huge swathe of arthritis across my left hip. They removed as much as they could, but it would mean more major surgery to remove it all. Again, the arthritis on the right hip remains untouched. Earlier this year, due to many, many new symptoms, I underwent extreme tests and therapy, everything from PENS (percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to hydrotherapy. The upshot is that I now have fybromyalgia – or “muscle nerve pain”.

There’s no cure, only medication and therapy. The condition can hit you severely one day, but hardly at all the next. It means that planning forward is nigh on impossible. There is, however, always a catalyst that sets fibromyalgia off. In my case, it’s likely it was one of the two operations on my Perthes and later Adductor tendons that instigated the condition in me.

Finally, I have been diagnosed with Significant Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. I’m not overweight, although there’s a chance that the strength of my medication (19 tablets per day plus hydroxide cream) contributes massively to my over-relaxed state during sleep.

In my most recent sleep test, the results showed that I wake up, on average, 19.7 times per hour during an average night. This is being treated and it’s hoped that breathing apparatus, even if it doesn’t cure my apnoea, will at least allow my body to recuperate and cope with my other ailments more readily.

Q. How do you deal with your health problems or physical limitations so that you can still work from home?


The doctors, therapists and consultants all have a similar view. Namely, that I’ll be waiting forever if I wait for treatment on the NHS, so may as well take care of my own therapy and recuperation. To that end, swimming and non-weight-bearing exercise are the key to maintaining a semblance of fitness and circulation.

That said, medication forms a huge part of my lifestyle. I take anything between 100-200 mg of Tramadol per day, other pain killers, two anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories and supplements. In addition, I use cream 3-4 times per day and a TENS unit 5-6 times per day.  Obviously, this amount of personal care (and being so loaded with drugs) inhibits me from working anywhere but home. The exhaustion I feel from both the Sleep Apnoea and fibromyalgia is also limiting. I have to work well in advance of deadlines, as one severe bout of fibromyalgia can see me bedridden for two-three days, and the majority of that time sleeping in order to catch up on that which I’ve missed during my ‘normal’ sleeping hours.  It’s taken a long while to find a client who’s tolerant of my conditions. As long as we keep the communication line open and work to a strict editorial calendar within a bespoke CRM, it works fine. The hours I work are very random. It’s genuinely a case of “I’ll work when my body lets me.”

Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to work from home because of medical problems or physical limitations


The first piece of advice I’d give to anyone who has a health condition looking to work at home is be honest – both with yourself and potential clients.

Although you may not want to admit it, you have limitations. But help is out there. Your GP will advise you of the therapy available and, even if you have to join groups (online or IRL) to get answers, do it. Get social. Speak to others with your condition. They are by far in the best position to provide you with useful advice.

Even able bodied people can’t do everything on their own. One of the key elements of being a boss (even if it is to yourself) is knowing when to ask for help. People are more than willing to offer advice.  Also, if therapy or medication time is necessary, don’t skip it. Managing your pain or keeping your condition under control is paramount and should take #1 priority. Fit your job around your treatment, not vice versa. And lastly, do approach your new venture as a business. Many people I’ve spoken to treat their job as a hobby, which it may have been before they were diagnosed as ill or disabled.  Approach every task, no matter how small or alien, like your entire livelihood depended upon it. Given my disheartening experiences with the Dept. of Works and Pensions in the UK, it probably will.

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