I worked very closely with a wonderful woman in her mid-eighties as her power of Attorney for Healthcare. After she had been hospitalized for an elevated white blood count, I transferred her to a short-term rehabilitation community, then to assisted living for a respite stay, before I took her home. The return home occurred in early December.
Two weeks before I took her home, I met with a licensed home care agency representative to arrange for a live-in caregiver until my client would be able to function on her own. I had good luck with this agency in the past and trusted the owner. But, like anything else, the situation can change overnight. I was aware that the holidays were approaching. I resigned myself to the fact that staffing my client’s case was probably going to be tough because, like anyone else, caregivers want time off during the holidays.
As it was explained to my client and me, she would have two caregivers. One would stay for four days of the week, and the other would work for three days. It was supposed to be the same two caregivers for the duration of my client’s care. While we were told by the agency in detail how the first four days would be covered, what would happen during the remaining three days remained a mystery.
The four-days-a-week caregiver that the agency sent seemed to work out well, and my client developed a bond with her. However, this particular caregiver had requested time off during the holidays to be with her family. There was a huge disagreement between the agency and this primary caregiver with regard to scheduling. In addition, the following incidents occurred involving the other caregivers who filled-in during the remaining three-day balance of the week:
The first person was a religious fanatic who encouraged my client to pray the rosary with her, talked incessantly, and shut herself in her room for two hours each day.
The next caregiver arrived and spoke little to no English. However, she was able to express her dismay over the fact there was no television in her room. When my client called the agency and said she was unacceptable, the current caregiver drove her to the train. On the way there, the dismissed caregiver opened the car door and bolted up the street without warning.
The next prospective caregiver was someone who supposedly had a criminal record. This was according to the primary caregiver who was responsible for taking care of my client during the first four days of the week. My client called the agency and told them not to even send that candidate.
Another caregiver cooked in the fashion of her native country, and it wasn’t to my client’s liking.
My client said that, because the fill-in caregivers were foreign, she couldn’t understand most of them. In addition, several of them were rather frightening in appearance. On several occasions, I saw them sitting and texting instead of working. They would “hop to” when I entered the room. My client said she was happier in assisted living and the live-in caregivers were causing her stress.
We had more than two meetings with the agency to try and rectify the situation, but the same types of things kept happening repeatedly. In addition, I was informed the agency had merged with another organization for which I had no respect. They were pulling caregivers from that agency.
Then, even more unfortunately, the whole situation fell apart when I received a call from my client. She had been with the original caregiver, whom she liked. The caregiver had taken my client to the bank, where she withdrew $300. She later went to the front of the house to watch TV. When she later inspected her envelope of money, $100 was missing. In addition, my client reported a diamond ring was missing, and money had been missing on one occasion before. I fired the agency immediately.
I found a replacement agency and now everything is fine. They replacement agency was able to find women who speak perfect English and cook in my client’s suggested style. All told, it just goes to show that an agency is only as good as its ability to staff with the right people. And as I always say, hiring a private caregiver is like dating: You may want to go out with them several times, but it doesn’t mean you want to marry them.
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