My friends tell me I should write a book. At times when I think I have heard everything and would have no new stories to share, the next phone call from a prospective client proves me wrong. Does my heart ever get broken? The answer is Yes. But the following story has left me the most devastated as any I have experienced in the 18 years I have owned this business.
My clients were a woman in her 90’s and her adult son. She had been an active woman who was suddenly stricken with a disease that caused her to become bedridden. Her son lived several hours away. Her wish was to remain in her independent living apartment with a 24-hour caregiver. It was becoming too much for the son to travel back and forth to supervise her situation, so he hired me to supervise his mother’s caregivers, check the mail, and address any immediate concerns with doctor appointments, food, supplies, and any other issues. Unfortunately, the non-medical home care agency that supplied the caregivers on a 24-hour basis was already in place and would not have been my choice. The agency was the “preferred” agency of the retirement community where my client resided, and my repeated appeals to replace the agency were resisted.
I have never experienced a more horrific nightmare than I did with managing our problems with this agency. The first major correction I made was addressing the fact that the agency was billing my client on a 12-hour shift basis. As a result, she was paying for two 12-hour shifts at a rate of 24 hours x $35 per hour per day = $840 per day. I had the agency convert the caregiver to Live-In status, which achieved a rate reduction to $400.00 per day. The only catch was that the caregiver had to be able to sleep uninterrupted for 8 hours a night.
Unfortunately, the pandemic had a devastating effect on the pool of caregivers who are available to take care of our elderly loved ones. The job is very difficult to begin with, and the employees that I was dealing with at this particular agency were the closest thing to thugs that I could have imagined. My clients and I experienced the theft of personal property and even food. One of the caregivers threw a medication box at me in a fit of rage when she couldn’t open its combination lock with her 3-inch nails. I found one caregiver intoxicated and walking around in the lobby of the retirement home in her bare feet. There were incessant “call offs” and the agency would just throw anyone into the position without training the substitute employee. My client had a catheter that required her diaper to be thoroughly cleaned. That never happened. Fortunately, a fabulous hospice organization eventually was assigned to her case, and its representatives kept me well informed of any problems with her care.
Over the New Years holiday, I had not intended to visit my client. But, something inside of me told me to go. When I got to her apartment, I had to knock twice before the caregiver let me in. When I got into the apartment, the place was a mess: there was glass all over the kitchen floor, dirty soup bowls everywhere, and other disarray. When I asked the caregiver what happened with the glass, she told me she couldn’t find a broom to clean it. When I asked her how the client was doing, she told me, “Fine, she’s resting.” I went in to check for myself, only to find her unresponsive. I then asked the caregiver when was the last time she saw my client awake. The caregiver told me “Yesterday.” I asked her whether she realized the client was dead. The caregiver didn’t answer.
When the hospice nurse arrived to pronounce the client dead, he showed me that her nightgown had been covered with a towel, and the gown was covered in vomit that looked like chocolate and blood. An untouched bowl of yogurt sat in front of her, which indicated she had not been fed.
As the nurse and I contacted the funeral home and made provisions for the body to be picked up and transported for burial preparation, the caregiver gathered her things and left.
As I noted earlier, the non-medical home care agency that supplied the caregivers on a 24-hour basis was already in place and would not have been my choice. Rather, the agency was the “preferred” agency of the retirement community where my client resided. This is just one reason why I encourage seniors and families to obtain ADSLA’s expert help well ahead of time. Having toured and systematically evaluated more than 450 independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing communities in the Chicago metropolitan area, ADSLA can help you and your loved ones (and us, too!) avoid preventable headaches and heartbreak.
Do you need a local opinion? Let Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors help. Call us at (708) 415-2934 or email us. Please visit our website. Please watch my video to learn how the process works and learn what some clients have to say.
Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors
1497 Shire Circle
Inverness, IL 60067