Our Caregiver, The Real Star at Our House
Eight years ago we hired a part-time caregiver. She cared for Mom a few hours a week. She’s still with us today, working five days a week, caring for both parents. After eight years she’s part of the family and truly a gift. Other caregivers come and go but Kelly has stuck with us. She recently received a top ten caregiver award at her agency–again. She’s a repeat winner.
We hired her though an agency. I’d rather use an agency then hire on my own. The agency does background checks, assumes liability, and provides continuing education for the caregivers. For more information on hiring caregivers, https://www.caregiver.org/hiring-home-help
Thankfully, my parents bought long-term care insurance years ago. It pays for the care. I try using it wisely, saving resources for the elder’s lifetime but using what’s needed. If unused, it’s gone. It is, after all, insurance. Figuring out how much to use and when, is a bit of a guessing game, but hopefully, educated guessing. The insurance pays for equipment, caregivers, partial cost of a facility, and housekeeping. My parents must meet the “need” criteria. They’ve meet the level for 24/7 care and have for some years.
Our caregiver provides “non-skilled” care, though she is far from non-skilled. Long-term care insurance covers non-skill or custodial care, Medicare does not. Kelly helps Mom and Dad bathe, dress, makes their bed, fixes breakfast and lunch, does personal laundry and keeps their clothes, supplies (adult diapers, wipes, under-pads, gloves, etc.) in order. She can give medications if I set them up. When asked to fill out an evaluation recently, I had to list all the duties Kelly performs. There weren’t enough lines.
She handles everything for Dad’s hearing aids. I take them to doctor’s visits (because I want to get in my 2 cents) but she takes mom for lab work. She drives them to appointments, takes mom for a weekly “hair-do”, and a few social events with their friends. She took Mom for manicures/pedicures until Mom wasn’t able to continue. She reads them the newspaper comics and “Super Quiz” daily. She even fixed their car. She deals with my dad’s weird insistence for particular motor oil in his car for oil changes. If left to me, I’d get the cheapest brand and call it good. Kelly helped me pull out our dryer last week and clean the vent. I say she helped, she did most of the work. She keeps fresh flowers in my parent’s room from our yard or brings them from home. Her mom grows the best lilacs!
The catchphrase around here is often, “I don’t know, ask Kelly.” or “Kelly would know.” As my parent’s health has declined, she rarely takes a day-off if she can help it. She’s not convinced anyone else will care for them “right”, which is probably true. I’m not even sure I rise to her standards.
Is it invasive having someone in your home that much? We don’t think so. Caregivers and clients clash. Find someone who is a good fit. If the first one doesn’t work, ask for a new caregiver, it’s OK. They’re used to it. Thankfully for us, Kelly fit from the beginning. We get along well. Mom and Dad occasionally fuss at the exercise regimen. They say she’s a task-master. I say more power to her. It comes from a heart of love. She’s invested in their well-being.
At my parent’s current level of care, doing it all alone is impossible. They need 24/7 care and aren’t safe left alone. They need help to dress, bathe, toilet and eat. Kelly has the day shift, five days a week (9-3) and I am the night shift. We are able to bounce ideas off each other, finding solutions when new problems arise. We even play “good cop/bad cop”.
We once had an emergency with Mom requiring a 911 call. Kelly and I worked together as smoothly as I’ve worked with any hospital team. She doesn’t panic, has an intuitive sense of what needs doing and doesn’t get grossed out by the things that get pretty gross when you are caring for the infirm. She would make a great nurse but I think if given the choice she’d be a veterinarian. She loves animals.
Last week was Kelly’s birthday. It’s pretty hard to adequately thank someone who does so much us. We had cupcakes with trick candles. My parents sang Happy Birthday. We took pictures. I know it doesn’t sound very exciting but our expectations aren’t high. We party lite. Thanks and Happy Birthday, Kelly.