Louise and her husband lived in a mobile home park in the country. They moved there while still in their sixties, but now, in their early 80’s, found everything about their life difficult. Worse yet, her husband Bruce was becoming easily confused and agitated; so much so that the things he normally loved to do were simply being abandoned. Burdened with her own medical issues, Louise grew overwhelmed.
Her children sought out a caregiving agency to care for Bruce and provide some respite for Louise. But when the caregiver and her supervisor arrived the first day, Louise grew wary of a stranger in her house with her husband while she was out of the house. Seeing her concern, the supervisor addressed her fear with a few simple statements. First, the company did thorough background checks and drug testing on the caregiver, including reference checks from her former employers. Second, the agency was licensed with the state, and abided by the regulations in place. Third, the agency was bonded and insured to safeguard against any incidents, however unlikely they may be.
While they were speaking, the caregiver had gotten right to work, and made Bruce a sandwich. As they sat at the table, the caregiver was chatting amiably, and answering Bruce’s repeated questions. A few moments later, Louise’s wariness vanished, as Bruce let out a laugh at of the caregiver’s answers to his many questions. Looking back to the agency supervisor, Louise said, “You know, I think we’re going to be just fine.”
Why People Fear Caregiving
Louise and Bruce’s story illustrates a prevalent issue people receiving care experience, especially at the beginning. The thought of a stranger (or worse, strangers) coming into their home can be overwhelming, especially to the elderly. Some of the major reasons:
- As people age, their world naturally shrinks. Their circle of friends dwindles, their outings become need-based rather than pleasure-based. As their world shrinks, their defenses against further shrinking increase.
- Many people, especially elderly, gain a deserved distrust of strangers, as seniors are often preyed upon by unscrupulous businesses.
- Allowing strangers in for assistance or respite is an acknowledgment of a waning independence, and is often strongly resisted by seniors – even when care is obviously needed.
- The fear of fiduciary or physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment grows as one’s condition worsens, and the individual grows less able to defend themselves or act on their own behalf.
How Families or Clients Can Overcome Fear of Caregiving
Family members or clients can enlist the help of the agency they select for care to adjust to the care they need:
- Agencies should be willing and able to provide caregiver their clients request, including gender, race, and experience.
- The Agency should be willing to allow clients to meet caregivers beforehand, if necessary.
- Verify caregivers are vetted properly: background checks, drug tests, licensure (if required).
- Verify the agency is licensed, bonded, and properly insured.
- Ask Agency representatives to make frequent checks with the client to determine they are satisfied with care.