Last week I received a call from a family in a crisis. Their elderly aunt, who is 96 years old, had recently become more ill and physically frail. The family caregivers were fighting over the fact that more help was needed and hours had been juggled. Accusations were flying. The relatives were at sea as to how to resolve the friction. I was brought in to help, and quickly.
This led me to thinking: what makes these situations work from the hired helper’s perspective-and what can doom them? D. Helen Susik, MA, writes in Hiring Home Caregivers that surprisingly, on the caregivers’ part, financial remuneration is a low priority and that feeling appreciated and included are of the highest significance.
In a rank-ordered informal survey of workers, she reports the following results:
1. Feeling “in” on Things
This is an intrinsic part of a care provider feeling part of the team. Regularly scheduled meetings with family and/or the geriatric care manager to discuss the patient’s care, and the concerns and grievances of everyone involved, make a real difference. When the hired home care worker is treated respectfully, and feels that her input is valued, and opinion sought, there is every possibility that the patient will be treated well and the household will be a peaceful one.
2. Tactful Discipline
As I’ve often told my daughter, everyone has a boss. It’s a big mistake to expect a home care aide to do this physically and emotionally complicated job solo. Oversight and kindly but fair observation of the aide make for a good working environment. Communicate about what is working well and what could use some improvement. None of us are perfect. We are all learners!
3. Understanding Attitude
Home care aides have tough jobs. They are called upon to be psychologists while taking care of business, and at the same time, keeping their eyes wide open and being prepared for almost anything to happen. Family members and care managers should do their best to keep an open mind, and support home care workers when they make small mistakes.
No one can be thanked too much. Okay, I guess it’s possible, but it is too infrequent. Sometimes we think it, but don’t say it out loud. Thanks in words, or a small gesture such as giving flowers, go a long way. Remembering birthdays and special days is very meaningful. If you think your home care aide is great, tell her!
5. Good Working Conditions
Here is an area of great importance. The home care worker who sleeps over cannot sleep in a lumpy bed. When the aide takes a break, she needs a comfortable chair, and a lamp to read by. This is simple courtesy and not to be ignored.
6. Good Wages
If you and your family have hired someone through a homecare agency, be aware that part-and perhaps a significant part-of what you pay goes directly to the agency, not to the aide. If you are paying the aide directly, you should be paying a fair wage. Consider how much time the aide spends traveling. You might decide to reimburse a proportion of that time or those costs.
7. Loyalty from Employer
This can be expressed in flexibility in hours or in an expression of gratitude. My experience has been that when employers express their gratitude, they are rewarded with loyal employees.
Please send on your feedback, and your experience with paid home care workers. If you would like to talk more about any aspects of hiring and working with home care aides, please let me know. Your feedback and requests will guide my next columns.