As Jim’s dementia progressed, it became obvious he would need full-time caregiving while I was at work. Jim had become afraid to stay by himself and needed help getting through the day. Initially we considered all the traditional care giving options: family members, senior care companies that supply caregivers, adult day care, and moving Jim to a facility to live full time. But we ended up crafting our own slightly unorthodox way of meeting our needs, and it has worked wonderfully for us.
My desire has always been to have Jim live with me for the remainder of his life. So I wanted to select a caregiving option that would keep Jim at home and delay – or preferably avoid – his moving to a facility.
Family was not a real option for us because – like many – we have no relatives in town. So I thought adult day care might be the answer. These centers range from modest church-run programs to upscale centers that have chef prepared meals and spa services. We selected a center on the nicer end of the spectrum. But Jim was going through a challenging period and he was difficult for the center’s employees to control. Unfortunately, that option was eliminated.
So I decided to recruit our caregivers myself.
Senior care companies were very responsive, but the two companies I talked to only paid their employees a few dollars above minimum wage. This concerned me because I thought we might have more caregiver turnover, which would require Jim to make frequent adjustments. So I decided to recruit our caregivers myself. We would pay the caregiver more than a typical caregiving job, but our costs would still be less than an outside agency – if I could handle the recruiting.
I sent out emails to friends and associates and had the job posted on our church’s job board. To my delight (and surprise), we had a good response. The typical person who was interested was retired, desired part–time work, and wanted flexibility to occasionally travel. And most of the people were friends from church. So we hired four caregivers, each of whom works five or six hour shifts several times a week. When one person goes on vacation, another steps in to fill the gap. Jim has known three of these caregivers for almost 30 years, so there is a long relationship that enhances the caregiving he receives.
We certainly feel blessed by the caregivers that work with Jim. There is no question that their loving, home–based care has helped him remain and thrive at home, and allowed me to continue working. It does take extra effort to prepare weekly schedules and work around the time–off issues that invariably arise, but that effort has been minuscule compared to the exceptional level of care Jim has received.