As mentioned in my last posting, the time had come for me to get some help in the caring of my husband, Milo. Before my ‘melt-down’, I had done some research into different in-home care-giving agencies. In the meantime, physical therapists and nurses had come to the house to monitor Milo and to exercise and strengthen his muscles. They were wonderful and i wish i could have had them here all the time, but it was not to be.
I can only relay to you what I have experienced and how I went about hiring a caregiver. I am extremely fortunate that my step-daughter, Lori, is an experienced nurse connected to home-health care; she is a mine of information and she set me on the right course.
While doing the research on different agencies, I found that the costs varied a lot – some facilities wanted over $30 an hour, way out of my league. Then I found one at the other end of the spectrum who wanted $100 per day as a live-in. But I needed to find an agency who was properly insured with liability insurance, workers’ compensation and that the care-giver be bonded. Identity theft is rampant and back-ground checks are imperative, after all I was going to have someone in my home who would have access to a lot of personal things. I also wanted the care-giver to be responsible for their own social security payments and be able to speak English. Being British brings its own culture eccentricities too; I needed someone who would be accepting of my quirks. But above all, the care-giver needed to be experienced, qualified and kind. Would I ever find this paragon of virtue?
As mentioned in my last posting, my son, Paul, had taken charge. He immediately called the agency at the top of my list who, incidentally, had also been recommended by our doctor.
The owner of the in-home care facility we contacted was at our house within an hour to appraise the situation; she realized instantly that twenty-four hour care for Milo was necessary and that I needed some immediate respite. She felt that ‘Blessie’, a qualified care-giver, would fit the bill.
Fortunately, Blessie was available to help us and arrived promptly to take over. Enveloped in a haze of gagging perfume, she was also ‘loud’ – two straits that I happen to dislike. And, I had to admit that having someone in my home is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do; it is not easy to lose one’s privacy.
“Ma, ‘suck it up’.” My son was adamant. “Those straits you mention are minor issues that can be dealt with easily.”
I knew he was right, but the stubborn streak that ran down my back bristled.
I relinquished my bedroom to Blessie and moved into the guest room far enough away so I wouldn’t be disturbed at night. At first, Blessie was on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. She was a God-send and soon enough she was perfume-free and her voice lowered to a more reasonable level. But it was, and is, hard to watch strangers going through cupboards and drawers that you had once considered sacred.
My emotions were close to the surface while acting as a watch-dog making sure that Milo was in capable hands. As I slowly let go of the control, I started to let Blessie do her job and after two weeks she went home at nights and then returned for twelve hours per day for another two weeks. Now she comes in for five hours a day, five days a week from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. when both Milo and I are ready for some help.
The cost is high both financially and mentally for this type of care-giving and it concerns me that our savings won’t last and, should Milo live for many years and I’m still alive, will there be enough money left for me to survive on? It’s a question that concerns us, the aging population of America. For some of the less fortunate in California, Medicaid may cover some of the cost of care, but for those of us who have saved hard for our retirement, we have to rely on what ever funds we have put aside for emergencies. I know I do not want to turn to my family for any type of assistance while they are struggling to put their children through college while at the same time trying to pay-off mortgages and such. It’s a dilemma that many of us will have to face.
Some type of care may be inevitable for many as age-related disease-ridden bodies become more and more prevalent in our society but hopefully we of a certain age will face this time with grace and fortitude – and with a few dollars left in the bank. I hope this blog is a wake-up call for all.
To save money, it was said of old Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, that she never puts dots over her i’s, to save ink. (Letter to Sir Horace Mann, 1785)