On Finding The Right Caregiver

 The art of engagement...

The art of engagement...

Finding the right caregiver is no easy task.  If you land in the desperate position of needing someone ASAP, then take comfort in knowing that agencies exist with a hiring process so you can have supervision on the quick.  Trained personnel, armed with a client history and years of experience that enable you, the concerned one, to relax, well-assured of your loved one's safety.  That is of course until the possible realization that your newly hired help isn't exactly "helping".  Sure, your new assistant might contribute with drives to appointments, errands or even provide hygiene services but if it's not the right fit, then it is not the right fit. 

I went through an agency and two different caretakers before I realized what exactly I needed from an aid.  Things that sounded great on paper like registered, certified, or experienced didn't exactly translate into quality care.  My first two aids came with thick accents, iPhones and the expanse of knowledge one can only feel confident with when you are in your 20's.  The reputable labor and high price tag landed me with youthful strangers my parents could neither understand nor relate to, both engaging more with Facebook than my folks while I was out.  Sure, they assisted with those minor tasks and of course were able to address immediate safety concerns but at the end of the day I was looking for more. I craved a scenario that made my parents more comfortable at home and as comfortable as possible with their own evolving chaos with Alzheimer's and Dementia.

 Essentially, I was looking for someone who was a "substitute" me.  I had none of the above agency criteria that's supposed to make you feel better about hiring a stranger.  I am not registered with any such agency.  The only certificate I have exists by birth with absolutely zero relevance to my ability to perform specialized duties.  And as for experience?  Ugh... I guess you could say I have little to none?  However, for all intents and purposes, I am the best fit for this job.  I am the Primary Caretaker, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Estate Executor and perhaps most comfortably or awkwardly, I am their daughter.  Unfortunately, my extensive awesomeness is not enough and I needed to hire someone with the skills, compassion and integrity that were as close a match to my own while simultaneously finding someone with the strengths where I was weak.  I needed someone to engage with my parent, to help them with their struggles and act more like their companion than a complacent house-sitters.

Luckily, I eventually found this magical person and it was a hunt that lasted more than a year.  She is not from an agency but instead, she is from a place called Word of Mouth.  She engages my parents with art, puzzles and conversations that run in circles making absolutely no sense yet engages with a level of patience and kindness that far exceeds my own. She does incredible things like fancy up-dos with my mom's hair, helps her shower or get dressed and brushes and flosses her teeth!  I am not kidding about the flossing.  She takes great care in all 19 of them!!!

I can only pay her $15 an hour which is the standard rate in the caregiving field but I assure you she is worth every penny and so much more!  She is actually so good that I feel a twinge of shame that I can't do more for her because she is doing so much for me.  It is the shame that tells me I have found the right person, when every payday I hand over a check and it's a check that feels so meager in regard to her worth.  I often worry about the financial constraints of this disease and question our ability to afford and sustain quality care.  I actually question all kinds of things related to navigating this stuff and have no idea if I am making the right decisions or not.  I second guess myself constantly but not when it comes to Diane.  She is the right fit and I know this not only from my feelings surrounding pay concerns but more importantly the room she has created within our home to let in joy.

Thank you Diane! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!