Sunday, January 30, 2011

What a Difference Quality Care Makes!

For anyone who has relied on hired staff to provide care for a loved one, you've probably heard that "it's a crap shoot!"

When Steve came home from the hospital in July, he required 24-hour-a-day care. (He still does.) We called an agency that could provide Certified Nurse's Assistants. The agency sent two highly qualified young men, both wholly committed to their work, kind to Steve, and respectful.

The cost, however, was prohibitive. We were exhausting our savings, and nibbling at retirement accounts.

We hired another agency - at a lesser cost. One of the women the new agency sent was personable and patient with Steve. She insisted on his getting enough watermelon to keep his digestive system working smoothly. She had a sweet disposition, and we all felt safe.

The other woman, however, was - frankly - frightening. Her judgement was curious, her decisions inconsistent. She would do tasks that were not requested - like cleaning our stovetop, and omit the required duties - like oral care and giving Steve medications from his Mediset. Worse, when called on anything, she became defensive. There was always a reason for her omissions - but they weren't her fault!

The day this odd little woman arrived on a non-scheduled day and locked her keys in her car, I had it. It was time for a change. This woman was simply takng too much work!

Now, we've heard of the nightmare situations where caregivers steal, or treat patients in an abusive manner. Thankfully, we've had none of these horrors.

I went back to the first agency, and begged. Working with fewer hours, we could shave the cost a bit - plus we could rely more heavily on family members.

Meeting the two new caregivers was like a breath of fresh air - accompanied by a sense of deep relief!

So, in this chapter, we learned that:
  • You get what you pay for.
  • Asking a total stranger into your home is a terriby vulnerable position - particularly when your loved one is so medically tenuous.
  • English skills are critical. Most of the caregivers we have met have learned English as a second language. Their ability to speak English is a tribute to their intelligence. But, when a patient is very ill, or doesn't hear well, I wonder what gets lost in the shuffle.
  • It pays to be creative, and keep looking til you find a good match.
Take care.
Linda Gromko, MD

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