• Laura Alvarado-Newson

Can somebody please give me directions to a decent caregiver?

This post comes from the heart of a desperate mother and caregiver. I am mom first and caregiver second to my 17-year-old son with cerebral palsy. Aside from a few hours of babysitting to go on a date with my husband from time to time, we didn’t need help. My husband and I were the perfect caregiving team. People would ask, “why don’t you have a nurse in here helping you?” Because we didn’t need one. We were handling it fine and our son can’t get any happier or healthier and I plan on keeping it that way. So why this post? Because as of a couple of years ago I began to lose my partner in caregiving. My husband started to lose his ability to hold his own as far as caregiving was concerned and this was a safety matter so I began to take on more of the load by myself. Later, we find out the reason for my husband’s health and neurological deterioration was due to a series of strokes. So now I find myself sole caregiver to my son and now to my husband. Okay, white flag up, I need help! I had been looking into agencies and had a few people come in and out of our house, looking for that one person that would satisfy my requirements, not only as his mother, but also as head caregiver. Yes, that makes me a tough boss. I haven’t fought tooth and nail in prayer, in tears and in screams to doctors to keep my boy alive just to have some fresh out of trade school, lazy-minded, do-the-least-I-can-do-and- get-paid-for-it attitude, person with a cell phone stuck to their hand, come in and mess with my boy, his safety, his health. My hopes are that this post will be shared with people who are:

· thinking about becoming caregivers,

· individuals who already work in the caregiving field, whether it’s respite, home health aides, CNAs, etc.

· Other moms of special needs kids, so you know what to expect from a caregiver

· individuals who have family members in a nursing homes, and

· owners of these agencies and nursing homes

All read this!

I have a friend who is studying to be a CNA and she is doing clinical right now. She has come to me with horror stories about how many of the residents of these homes go days without getting a decent shower or even being fed, yet the CNA’s would put in their chart that the task was done and move on. She was witness to one elderly man who died and she noticed a day before that they didn’t feed him and he couldn’t feed himself. She won’t come forward because she wants to finish the program without repercussions. I understand, but I can’t stay quiet because that man was someone’s father, grandfather. It doesn’t matter if family never visits them, they deserve care and respect because they are human beings. We have also experienced the same lack of respect and care from people coming through our door into our personal home. Needless to say, they don’t last long.

So what does an efficient caregiver look like?

Those who plan to go into this field take note, if this is too much work for you, then this is not the field you should be in.

· When given instructions: take notes of times and details, so you can refer back later on. When you don’t take notes, I will assume you aren’t listening and plan on doing your own thing anyways, I don’t care if you have been doing this for 30 years, take notes. My child, my instructions, period.

· Be on time! I have been late to so many appointments because of the 10 minutes you are running late, organize yourself, after a few drives you should know when there’s traffic. I know things happen, call in and tell me you are running late. Also, don’t put on your time card that you worked from 8-12 when in fact you didn’t start until 8:15, that’s lying and stealing.

· Interact with the patient appropriately; for example, my son is 17, don’t talk to him as if he were 1 month old and don’t assume he can’t understand you. If you are unsure how to communicate with a patient, ask. Never assume anything.

· Put your phone away, turn it off and put away. This is so unprofessional in any line of work. I have had so many mistakes done to my son because I let the phone thing slide. If you need to take a break to make a call, let the supervisor know. Social Media and all your friends will be there when you are done doing your job.

· Take initiative. I know for a fact that a caregiver’s job also includes light cleaning, sometimes cooking when applies and laundry. Our current caregiver refuses to do this, and the only reason she is still with us is because our son likes her and she gets the basics done. Yes, we are settling, because she has been the best out of the worst so far. However, a good caregiver will notice the basket of clean laundry (the patient’s laundry) and should take initiative and put it away, keep floors and patient’s bathroom clean, not only for comfort but hygiene. Take initiative, you shouldn’t have to be told how to put one foot in front of the other if it is in your job description. If you don’t know where to put something, ask.

· Follow instructions, if the supervisor says to read to the patient for 20 min, do it, or walk the patient around the block, do it! You are not getting paid to watch TV while the patient is bored out of their mind.

· Being tired is not an excuse. I get that some caregivers work around the clock, but that doesn’t give anybody the right to come into my home after working a 12 hr. shift and falling asleep on the couch, completely forgetting about my son…yes that really happened. If you are working double shifts but are neglecting one or both of your jobs, you need to rethink your strategy. Denny’s is open 24 hrs., I’m sure they will give you a job, better to mess up a cheeseburger order than to put one of your patients in danger.

· Please remember, your patients aren’t just file numbers or room numbers, they are people. What if this was your child, how would you like your child, mother, grandfather to be treated? How would you like to be treated?

If this sounds like too much work, or grosses you out, then you are in the wrong line of work.

-From a mom who loves her son!

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