You’ve had the all-so-important discussions about what Mom/Dad want-right? You’ve talked about the particular aspects of care they will need/want and the traits each of you feels is important in a caregiver — experience, soft-spoken or not, creative, energetic or not, spiritual or not (do they care with heart or is it just a job). I know when I was looking for care for my parents we developed a list of personality traits that were positives and qualities that were important; a shopping list of sorts along with the tasks, or activities of daily living they would need assistance with. Beyond their physical needs we were shopping for a caregiving relationship that felt like family.
I would be the primary caregiver, even though the distance between myself and my parents wouldn’t afford me the role as an on-site caregiver. And so, the family feel; an ability to communicate frequently, openly and honestly; be patient, understand and support me when my emotions get the better of me; be someone I could trust to respect my parents as they might their own
My parents preferred a family member provide their care. They wanted to remain connected to their own community of friends and stay in their home. However, because of my distance away from them, and through our conversations they came to accept that the care they would receive would need to be provided professionally. With this realization, they began to define their expectations of a caregiver as; kind hearted, not too young (I had to smile), health-conscious but not too much so (Dad likes his meat and potatoes – not so much his vegetables), creative, expressive, and fun-loving, and lastly but most importantly, Dad wanted someone who could keep good conversation with Mom (I think so he didn’t have to). Wow! How vastly different, yet complimentary these expectations were. The question now was, does such a person or persons exist?
We stepped out on the limb and hired an agency. The caregiver assigned to us was sweet, respectful and experienced along with all those words companies use to describe their care, but something we couldn’t quite put our finger on was missing, both for me and my parents. The agency noted this was one of their very best caregivers although sent another caregiver as we requested. A perfect match! After the first week, Mom, Dad and I talked about the differences between the caregivers. What we agreed on was simply that our new caregiver just ‘got it’. She wasn’t just going through the motions. She was getting as much out of the relationship as my parents were. Her interactions with me and my parents communicated a sincere and fundamental desire to provide care (both visibly and verbally). In her words, “I’m probably having more fun and learning more about life from your parents as they are from me. The rest is just stuff I do to keep them comfortable and safe.”
Mom spent the last couple weeks in an end-of-life facility and at my request, this very special caregiver stayed with me through the long, lonely hours, supporting me and without question, sharing the grief of losing a wonderful lady, my Mother and her friend.