When I look back on some of the decisions we made concerning Ben’s caregivers, I have to shake my head and say, “Wow, were we ever stupid!”
With each decision, I was sure what we were doing would be the best for Ben and us. But the problem was that we were totally immersed in the grind of Ben's support, and all the stress and confusion that came along with it.
We were too close to each situation to really assess things objectively. Sometimes I wonder if we had asked for help earlier, would the outcome have been better.
The first, big, mistake we made was thinking we didn’t need much caregiving help at all. We were fairly young when Ben was young and believed we had the energy and drive to do all of it (or most of it) ourselves.
If I had to rely on someone else and give up that responsibility, it would be admitting defeat. That I would have somehow failed in my role as his dad.
It was really pride and a weakened self-confidence that got in my way. But that came with a high emotional and physical price that I paid in the form of cancer.
The truth about this mistake is that we have to be at our best to support Ben, and we can’t do that if we’re exhausted and broken.
The second mistake we made was believing we knew how to properly screen candidates we wanted to hire.
You see, we had lots of experience in our work life with hiring and managing teams and thought those skills would be easily transferable. Well, some of them were.
But the difference we overlooked was that these our "hires" would be in our home. Our home would be their workplace. And that can make things really awkward if we selected the wrong person.
In a workplace setting, if a new hire turns out to not be a good fit, then letting them go is a fairly straightforward process. And you can likely go without having a position filled for some period of time and not be a huge problem.
But when they’re in your home, it’s different because there’s no separation. They are part of your home life. Disrupting that can cause all kinds of unwanted problems.
The truth about this mistake is that you cannot skip steps. Doing something in haste is never worth it. Check all references thoroughly, and if something doesn’t feel right about them, don’t ignore it.
Another big miss for us was not recognizing burnout with Ben’s caregivers early enough.
We had one person who had been with us a long time and we were noticing that she had lost her drive and become complacent. We should have addressed these concerns right off the bat but we were kind of afraid.
That’s back to the issue of her being in our home, and what would be the outcome if we approached her.
We were worried that she might be offended and quit, leaving us with no one.
We were also worried how she might treat Ben after hearing our concerns (if you’re wondering how can you ever trust a caregiver, read this post).
We talked about hiring a backup person, to fill in for some extra hours. But we weren’t sure how she’d respond.
Would she think we were trying to push her out the door or would it feel like a relief that she wasn’t the only person we were relying on?
The truth about this mistake is that we should always be upfront and talk through any issues. Her behavior was a clear sign that she was feeling burnt out. And it was going to end whether we faced that truth or not.
An ongoing mistake we made – which still happens today occasionally – was not having regular check-ins or performance reviews with Ben’s caregivers. I know that sounds rather formal but don’t forget, they are working for you – you’re their employer even if you’re dealing with an agency.
The reality with any relationship is that you have to work at it every day if you want it to grow and develop.
You need to be approachable and communicate openly and candidly so you caregiver knows where they stand.
You need to catch them doing something right at least once a week and recognize good performance often.
Most of all, you need to create environment that’s fun and where everyone can learn.
The truth with this mistake is that we all need nurturing, reinforcement and balanced feedback.
There are actually 10 best practices to foster a great relationship with your caregivers. But I won’t give it all away – go learn about it with the Caregiver Support Formula.
Talk to you next week!
-- Mike --