Having a caregiver in our home brings a certain dynamic to our lives and Ben’s life. Some of it’s good. Some not so good.
One of the things we’ve learned is to “pick our battles” since everyone comes with strengths and weaknesses … and baggage.
It’s a balance. As long as Ben’s caregivers are focused on him and treat him well, that’s really the only criteria. We can live with just about anything else that comes with it.
One of Ben’s caregivers – let’s call her Savannah – had been with us for about 7 years. That’s a long time in “caregiver years”.
Savannah’s greatest strength was her reliability. She always stepped in to fill the gap when other caregivers didn’t work out or quit without notice. And she was willing to do consecutive overnight shifts – a big plus if we ever wanted to get away for a few days.
But she often strolled in late for her shifts, and she couldn’t help but be sarcastic with much of what she said.
We also knew that she would sometimes nod in agreement if we needed her to follow a certain routine but would later dismiss our desires, feeling we were micromanaging her, and did it the way she wanted when we weren’t around.
We, also, recently learned that she would feign kindness to us and then talk about us behind our backs.
But that was the balance. She was attentive to Ben and could respond in an emergency situation. So, we let the negative things go.
Of course, the danger with not dealing with these things is that we didn’t really notice them building because it can be so gradual. We adapt and let more things go because we think (as we did before) that since the annoying behaviour had always been there, things weren’t really any worse.
And we miss the fact that the “bad” was probably outweighing the “good”.
We hit that point a few weeks ago.
Things had been building. A few days before Savannah was scheduled for 3 overnight shifts, there was a testy text message exchange with her over a known issue. Without question, that should have been dealt with a live conversation – text messaging is the worst medium to deal with concerns – but each other’s schedules made that impossible in a short period of time.
She came for her 3 overnight shifts as planned but was radio silent most of the time while we were away – a deviation from her normal behaviour. One evening, I texted Savannah (as I always do) to ask how things were and to tell her there was a hockey game on TV that Ben would be interested in watching.
She texted back, “As you can see on your camera, Ben is on the couch watching TV”. (We have webcams in our home in plain view that everyone knows about).
Her true feelings were coming out. A simple response would have been something like, “K thx. Just finished a nice bath and now relaxing watching TV”.
Something that any parent would want to hear.
Something to put my mind at ease since we are always on-call, always on-edge when we’re not home with Ben. She knows that.
In any other job setting, that type of sarcasm and lack of respect directed at her employer would have landed her in hot water.
That was it for me. One sarcastic comment too many.
I didn’t need that grief in my life. If she thought it was OK to say that to me, I worried what she thought would be OK to say to Ben. She had lost respect for us as the employer and we had lost our trust in her.
If we chose to let her go, that would effectively end any chance to keep our upcoming vacation plans. But we weren’t going to be held hostage.
We wouldn’t be happy anyway.
We couldn’t leave Ben with that toxic attitude for an entire week. Cutting that off was worth so much more than the disappointment of our trip.
We gave her a dismissal letter after the last of her overnight shifts. She didn’t waste any time hurling angry text messages our way, telling us how Ben’s other caregivers thought we were impossible to work for, too.
Basically spewing all the things she didn’t like about us and what we did. In her mind, she was the victim. She had done nothing wrong. We were the bad guys.
At the end of the day, no one was forcing her to come work for us. So she could have ended this seemingly “horrible” relationship at any time. But she didn’t.
We told Ben later that day, what we had done, what had led up to her firing. And that she wouldn’t be back.
He grinned and heaved a big sigh. I was taken off-guard. His mood instantly changed.
Since then, he is the happiest he has been in a long time.
Relaxed enough to have a little afternoon nap some days.
Way more talkative.
A “pep in his step”.
Moving in his walker more and more.
Sleeping more soundly.
Clearly, a huge burden was lifted from his shoulders.
How did we miss that? I suppose in the grind of busy daily routines and an otherwise complex life, it can be easy to do.
In the end, the only true criterion to assess a caregiver is how much does your child like them and is comfortable around them. Nothing else is important. But for children who are non-verbal (like Ben), it’s not always obvious.
Bottom line. Cut your caregiver loose as soon as possible, even if it causes disruption and disappointment for you.
That feeling doesn’t last long. It’s so worth it.
I still can’t get over how energetic Ben is now!