The Caregiver Search

September 11, 2009

We have recently been searching for someone to fill one of our three staff positions. We did not have an easy time finding someone despite the unemployment that is reported to be at its worse in thirty years. Not having stable staff seriously impacts Lauren's well-being and, at this point in our lives, the well-being of George and myself. One of the reasons that being able to access care through the self-direction program is so critical for us is that neither George nor I are as capable physically as we used to be. And, we no longer have the energy needed to meet all of Lauren's physical care needs.

When looking for caregiver, you may hire from an agency or self-hire. If you self-hire, as we do, you will need to advertise in some way, screen, interview, and select a caregiver. That sounds easier than it is. I have had anywhere from 20 to 99 applicants from one newspaper ad. We had at least 90 applicants, from several ads and other sources, during this particular search. Unfortunately, after two and a half months, we found that the current job pool does not seem to have very many people available from the segment of the pool that is interested in and suited to this type of position. Most of the people that applied either gave us no confidence that they would be a reliable and appropriate caregiver or they were looking for their second or third jobs. I don't feel it is right for someone to work a full day somewhere else and then come to Lauren for another seven to eight hours. The particular position we needed to fill requires about eighteen transfers between 3PM and 11 PM. It is not a difficult job, but physically demanding, and you need to have energy left at the end of the day. And, Lauren is hiring someone to provide not only care but companionship as well. That person cannot be someone who is too exhausted to interact with her.

Over the years we have selected wonderful caregivers and terrible caregivers. I have refined my advertising and recruitment attempts and improved my interview techniques. I have alternately encouraged myself to be more open-minded (don't judge the piercing, tatooing, or tank top and flip-flop interview outfit) and I berated myself for being gullible. You want to be extremely careful when you are hiring someone to work in your home, but no matter how careful you are there are no guarantees. It comes down to relying on drug testing and background checks and then listening to what your intuition is telling you. I was once trying to decide between two candidates. One, a youngish soccer-mom, was really my front runner, but something was just not right. I couldn't verbalize what it was - just a gut feeling. I hired the other candidate (who worked out great!) Later I heard from another family, who did hire the soccer-mom, that she turned out to have a drug problem and a suspended license.

I never interview someone without Lauren present. It gives me the opportunity to see how or if the person interacts appropriately with Lauren, and Lauren always finds a way to communicate that someone is not being sincere or is just too pushy. Some candidates will totally ignore Lauren's presence - like she's a piece of furniture. Some just go overboard with attention. That usually illicits a "Please, save me from THIS." look from Lauren. And, then there's my favorite - the deer in the headlights reaction upon seeing my perfectly charming, wheelchair sitting, rocking, noise-making daughter. I can just see the thought going through the interviewee's mind, "Oh, my God! What have I gotten myself into?"

The search for a caregiver is always a stressful, exhausting time for me. I am looking for someone, who in essence, is my surrogate. I have to be able to completely trust them, rely on them, and respect their abilities. During this last search there were people who wanted the job, but I just did not want them. The wait is difficult on body and spirit. I start second guessing myself. But, as in the past, I think the wait was worth it. We have hired someone. She started last week. I think we have a winner!

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