Wednesday, April 8, 2009

THAT’S my caregiver?

I had the pleasure of catching up with one of the first people I ever hired to be a caregiver. She was not only one of my first, she was, hands’ down, one of my best. She ended up working for me until we sold our business 13 years after I hired her.

Today she works as a private caregiver for a gentleman who requires total care. It’s physically and emotionally challenging. While she’s not “old”, she’s no longer a spring chicken, either, and is feeling every one of her years.

In the course of this caregiving, she has supported the family numerous days during brief hospitalizations. She has witnessed the full gamut of caregivers: Some great, some awful.

She has become a passionate spokesperson for improved training, compensation, and treatment of caregivers as a result.

“If we don’t pay attention to how we’re treating caregivers, we’re going to get, as caregivers, those people who can’t get any other job,” she says. “I don’t know about you, but that’s not the person that I want to take care of me when I’m old and frail!”

Vickie’s got a good point. As our generation ages, and we face the need to find caregiving solutions for our mothers and fathers – and someday, ourselves – we need to give some very serious thought to who we want providing that care.

Who do we want to help us bathe?

Who do we want to prepare our meals?

Who do we want in our homes, helping with the most intimate and personal of tasks?

I’m not being critical of any individual or group of people, but I do think this is worthy of our consideration. We, as a society, seem to have little regard for caregivers when our own life or our loved ones’ aren’t impacted. We pay them minimum wage, offer few or no benefits, and generally regard them as lower-tier workers. How are we going to attract anyone other than those individuals who don’t have a passion for the job but can’t work anyplace else?

Without a change in perception by society as a whole, we will miss the opportunity to attract those people who have a caring, compassionate, dedicated heart – but need to pay their rent.

We’ll miss the opportunity to change the face of caregiving, until it’s too late and we’re desperately trying to find someone who will care for us or our loved ones.

It’s time to set the bar a little higher. It’s time to create a professional caregiver – a Personal Care Aide – that is trained, certified, and respected: A person who can earn a living wage, and who can be proud to say, “I’m a professional caregiver.”

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