At the Home Instead Office, when we receive phone calls from people seeking care for their mum or dad, they often say to us “ my mum/dad is fiercely independent and hates the idea of having help, I am afraid your carers won't get a warm welcome”
I am always quick to respond “ I am totally sure you and I will be exactly the same when we get to that age, it's totally understandable” And I genuinely mean it – we all treasure our ability to look after ourselves and choose what time we go to bed! I reassure the caller we know the welcome mat may not be out on our first few visits, but, after time, when care is done correctly, the person usually comes round to seeing the benefit it can bring. I suggest they do a deal with mum or dad – try the care for 3 months and then, if you still decide you do not want it, it will be cancelled no questions asked. This reassures the client that their destiny is not being set in concrete by someone else and they still have control. I say three months because however good the care is, it’s a huge change for someone to have another person in their home and assisting with very personal tasks. Each party – the client and the carer – have to get to know each other and how each one ticks. We write very detailed care plans but to try to encapsulate a person down onto paper is a challenge, so it takes time to really get it right.
We train our carers to understand the process of ageing and the challenges and changes it brings. The very famous saying ‘walk a mile in a man's shoes’ is so apt. We have to help the able-bodied carer, understand how frustrating it is when arthritis stops you being able to wash your own back. When I am granted some time with our new carers I tell them the following
- Most of our clients are absolutely wonderful and very appreciative of what you do. However…
- Not every person turns into a lovely little old lady or man. If they were an unpleasant person in their younger years, then they will likely be an unpleasant person when they are older!
- Some clients are dealing with chronic diseases that are painful and debilitating and this will get them down at times
- Some clients have Alzheimer’s and at times behave very much out of character. There are special techniques to help manage these behaviours
- Everyone is entitled to a down day
Now comes my punch line. Given all the above, we will step in if a client treats a carer badly, when that client has no reason to do so. We have had clients who believe that as they are paying for help, they can treat the help rudely and in a demeaning way. If the client is of sound mind and there is no excuse for this, our office team will meet with them and explain this is not acceptable.
Now this kind of meeting is rarely needed. Our policy of mutual respect between the office staff, caregivers and clients, works well. Each party knows they are valued and respected.
With this approach, we can, therefore, reassure sons and daughters that we will do our best to help their parents and we are not easily offended. We want them to understand accepting help is a huge milestone but with the right understanding and approach, it can be very successful
I will end with a funny story. I went to see a new client, an elderly lady who had taken to her bed and her neighbour was exhausted from trying to help. When I met the lady, she was sitting up in bed, smiling, with a pink bed jacket on. She had a fascinating life story of working in a top London department store in the corset department. The next day I brought a carer to meet her and I told the carer “you will get on so well with this lady, she’s lovely” Well, my lovely little old lady from the day before had metamorphosed into an angry bundle of uncooperation. We could not find a way to please her or placate her. The look the carer gave me was priceless. I even said to our little bundle of anger in the bed “what happened to that nice little old lady I met yesterday in the pink jacket?” I decided to finish the care call alone and just as I was leaving the lady looked up from under the bedspread and said in a quiet voice “ I am sorry I am so horrible. Is your next lady nice?” I thought about my next call and replied honestly “Actually, she is even more of a character than you are! But never mind. You have to do more than this to scare me away” We both smiled