News from the Idaho SILC

Article by Shiloh Blackburn

   I planned on calling this article “How NOT to Hire Caregivers”, thinking the sassy tone of my writing would be self-explanatory, but then I realized the title sounds more like a guide for helping job seekers avoid incompetent employers. Instead, dear readers, my goal is to help families and individuals with disabilities recognize and understand they have a right to consistent, compassionate and reliable caregivers. So I propose this title: “Reasons to Fire Toxic Caregivers.”
  As someone who has self-directed her own Community Support Workers (CSWs) for two years now, and was on traditional care service for many years before that, I have seen the gamut of caregivers. I could write a book about my experiences, both good and bad. Of course I would change the names to protect the not-so-innocent. I understand there is a significant shortage of in-home caregivers right now, which puts a lot of us in crisis mode. Having acknowledged this sobering reality, I still maintain there is no reason why families and individuals with disabilities should keep or have to deal with rotten or even abusive caregivers.
  Here are reasons why people should request a different aide or leave a care company and even fire inadequate caregivers…
1) Personality Clash: I put this one first as it’s not an offense, just a fact. Everybody is different and that’s ok. Not everyone is going to get along with certain people. We have diverse likes, dislikes, habits and opinions.
2) Patronizing Know-It-Alls: This behavior has ramped up my stress and anxiety levels a number of times over the years. The caregiver I had in college was an awesome person, however, she thought I needed a flue shot. I said no, but she didn’t listen thinking she knew my body better than I did. She took me to the doctor, who took her word over mine. I was vaccinated and had a severe reaction, going into hypertension. She had to call my mom. She never made the suggestion again.
  They can mean well, wanting to help, but at the end of the day, if you’re unhappy and become anxious when they’re around, it’s time to look for another caregiver.
3) Passive Aggressiveness: Now I’ve had a few caregivers display this kind of behavior. This is expressing negative  feelings in an indirect confrontational way. For example, two ladies working with me were best friends, and sometimes would come together on a shift. They would sometimes ignore me in conversations and disregard some of my preferences – like not dropping the F-bomb. I felt they used the time to hang out with one another. I called the company to share my feelings and after they were reprimanded they constantly made comments like: “I can’t do that, it would be unprofessional.” every chance they got.
4) Unprofessionalism: This is an obvious reason. There was a CSW who bullied me in texts, and was unprofessional the entire time he and his wife worked for me. He never stuck to his shifts, brought his wife along and she ended up doing the bulk of the personal care work on their shifts. One even took a nap on the floor and they brought their son to my home without permission – because he wanted to meet my cat.
5) Money, or Bottom Line, Mattered Most: The last two companies I was with before self-directing didn’t care much for their clients well-being.  These employees complained frequently about being double or even triple-booked and overworked. One was in tears because she’d been forced to cancel a planned and much needed vacation. Some were stretched so thin because the company took on more clients than it could provide care for.
  As for me? One company told me I had to move out of my apartment “because it wasn’t accessible enough for them.” I was even yelled at for not having a Plan B in the event the company couldn’t provide full coverage. That…was..their…job!
6) Lack of Communication: If there is a problem between the caregiver and the client, how can it be peacefully resolved if it’s not addressed? I’ve told my CSW’s to please communicate with me. One can’t fix what’s wrong if you are not aware of the problem. We are all adults here. But I’ve had a couple caregivers that wouldn’t let me know when they were upset, and had a mutual friend talk to me. So aggravating!
  There are more reasons, of course, why it doesn’t work out with certain caregivers, theft, betrayal, or simply not a good fit. The important things are your mental and emotional health and well-being. Look for my book sometime in the future! *winks*