Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is It Really that Hard to Find Good Paid Help?

The following blog entry is an excerpt from my book The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving, available for sale directly from me.

Most caregivers I meet report trouble in finding qualified paid caregivers to take care of their relatives. Nursing homes and in-home support agencies report similar difficulties. In fact, we appear to be in the midst of an insurmountable crisis in caregiver support in this city... but is this really the whole picture?

Most of my clients do not need skilled nursing care for their relative. They just need respite, someone to be with their relative and keep them safe while they take a break or go to the grocery store. They need someone with the ability to follow directions, make a lunch, wash some dishes, take the patient for a walk, or sit and read a book while the patient takes a nap. Everybody wants an experienced person with credentials but what most people need most is a “patient-sitter.”

One of my clients has had no trouble finding the help she needs. She hires college students to take her mom to her physical therapy appointments, do some light housework, run errands, or simply sit and do schoolwork in the living room so her mom will not be alone when she needs help getting up from a chair or going to the bathroom. She can leave her mother for long periods and gets all the respite she needs, knowing that in an emergency someone with the ability to call for help will be there. Her college students know nothing about dementia but they learn quickly. She borrows books and videos from the Alzheimer’s Association to teach them what they have to know. It’s not perfect—some people don’t work out—and she’s lucky that her mother is not combative and seems to enjoy the company. She’s also not able to depend on only one person for all the times she needs help—she’s had to hire several who are available for different days and times. It’s a lot more work than simply hiring an agency; but the payoff has been terrific.

The going rate for hiring a “patient-sitter” (in Santa Cruz, CA in the year 2001) is $8-12/hour, depending on experience. Is it worth it? Well... was it worth it to hire a teenager with even less life experience to babysit when you wanted a night out then? If you are willing to take the time to provide training it will be safe enough and well worth the effort.

For those able and willing to take advantage of it, there’s a large relatively untapped market for caregiver support:

College Students. To hire a college student from a local college or university, call the school’s Student Employment Office.

Mature Women. Women attempting to re-enter the workplace after raising their families often make good caregivers. Contact the local YWCAs, college Women’s Centers, and state and local employment agencies and temp agencies such as Manpower or Kelly Services.

Church Members. Put a flyer on the bulletin board or post a notice in the church bulletin.

Retired Persons. Post a flyer in mobile home parks, retirement communities, senior centers, or libraries.

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