I have to tell you a story.
It happened nearly 8 years ago but I still remember it well. It was a Thursday, about 7:45pm, when the phone rang. It was Ben’s caregiver, Lisa (not her real name), calling. I rushed to swallow the last bit of food from dinner before answering.
“I’m looking for Mike,” the male caller said.
“This is Mike,” I responded.
“Mike, this is John (not his real name), Lisa’s husband. I’m calling to let you know that Lisa has worked her last day with you. After the way you have treated her over the last few years, she just can’t take it anymore.”
If you can picture my jaw dropping to the floor, eyes popping, and getting short of breath, that was about how I looked. Lisa had just left our house 30 minutes before, in a good mood, telling me and Ben she’d see us tomorrow.
I wasn’t quite sure what to say but responded with, “What are you talking about? Can I talk to Lisa?”
I could hear Lisa’s voice in the background but John wouldn’t let her come to the phone. He proceeded to tear a strip off me for all these terrible things we had done to her, none of which were true.
After 5 minutes of listening to insults and badgering, I decided I had had enough of John’s yelling and told him I had to go.
As I sat there in disbelief, I couldn’t imagine what had brought that on. Something wasn’t right. Lisa had shown no obvious signs of being unhappy or troubled which made it all the more confusing. But it didn’t matter. She had just quit which meant we were without a caregiver, period! We only had one and she was it!
Initially, I panicked and wondered what would we do now? How would we get through tomorrow? I had a super busy day at work that I couldn’t miss. But beyond tomorrow, what about next week? It would take forever to find another caregiver. And then have to train them all over again? I felt sick just thinking about it.
From exasperation, I quickly moved to anger. Could Lisa not even have the courtesy or decency to give us any reasonable notice? She knew how trapped we’d be without a caregiver. And then, I began to feel a twinge of guilt, that we had let Ben down, big time! He had no control over what happened but relied on us to manage things.
After the shock of Thursday’s bombshell passed, we realized that this day had been coming sooner or later. With only one person to rely on, we had set ourselves to fail. It was a harsh wake-up call, no question.
Ben deserved to have the best support and we promised ourselves that we would never let ourselves get into this kind of situation again. We couldn’t go back to a world without caregivers. Ben didn’t want us in his face 24-hours a day. He needed a life outside of his parents. And, we didn’t have the energy to even think about doing that all over again.
Obviously, we had to do something different with the next hire. Something that left us in control. Our answer was to take a more professional approach to hiring a caregiver and never be left hanging again. At the end of the day, this is the most important position we would ever hire. We had to be diligent every step of the way.
Eventually, we found our way through the haze and stress to not only hire a great person but also find a backup person. And then an “overnight” person. And then an education assistant.
It all started with some basic steps.
Get through the shock, pain, anger and guilt as quickly as possibly because they will stand in the way of you taking back control.
If you’re without a caregiver now or the one you had just quit, assume you will be at least 6 weeks without anyone. Get your household organized to manage through that time and then focus on finding the best person. You don’t want to rush and wind up with more problems.
Once you have a great primary caregiver in place, don’t stop there. Keep looking for a second person – someone who could fill in at different times or when you’re primary caregiver is out sick.
After you’ve brought a great caregiver into your life, there is always a honeymoon period where each of you is motivated and energized and supportive and thankful. But once that period begins to fade and the day-to-day routines become mundane or even more complex, you need to make sure your caregiver remains engaged and thriving in their role so they can bring their best to support your child. Caregiving is a tough job so be sensitive to burn out and overload.
All relationships require work to keep them healthy and growing. It’s no different with your caregiver. Trust me, if you neglect this step, you will be left out in the cold, and that’s no way to live.
If the rug gets pulled out from under you like we had, take heart that there is path forward. It will be rough for a few weeks, but you will wind up in a better spot if you follow those steps.
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-- Mike --