In 1995 I served my first client in home care, Mr. William Schlotta. Within a few days I knew that my role was more than just staffer, staffing supervisor or even case manager. My role was first and foremost that of friend. Immediately I began to ask myself what I would need to make myself more comfortable if I were in his shoes, welcoming in strangers to my home for assistance I wished I could do for myself. It was then that I began a few policies that have governed me until this day.
For one I never sent a new person to a client’s home unless I was with them for the first visit. No way would I allow a stranger to meet a client without first being properly introduced by someone the client already knew, namely me. Secondly, I paid more than adequate attention to security to ensure a safe environment for the client and my staff.
I then would always ensure that if there was family of the client involved, that they understood I was a complement to their own supervision of their family member’s care needs. I would explain that I was not a replacement and my performance to make someone feel as though they had a life must never be a threat to the person’s children or other relatives including a spouse. After all I was likely there because they arranged it which more than demonstrated their love and concern for this relative.
I recall walking into the Dearborn, Michigan apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Hodge in the Summer of 2002 and Mrs. Hodge telling me she just learned her brother had died. Mrs. Hodge asked, “Bruce will you make sure I get to the funeral?” I responded, of course I will. It was a few hours later that her daughter called me and asked, “are you nuts?” considering what I did not know was that her brother lived in Chicago which is where the funeral would be held. Therefore, I had just agreed to take her seriously limited father and non-ambulatory mother some 300 miles from home. You guessed it, I still took her and her husband to the funeral and safely back home. Her daughter was thrilled by the way and was never made to feel insecure based upon my efforts to give mom and dad a life.
Over the 8 1/2 years of my serving them we met multiple times to craft the right budget to keep care in place and in accordance with my promise to her dying husband, I managed Mrs. Hodge’s care for 7 1/2 years after Mr. Hodge died.
Some in the business of private duty home care see themselves as nothing more than schedulers of people. That would be the wrong mindset. You are accountant, budget strategist, staffing cost innovator, meal planner, coach, mentor, safety consultant, care manager and first and foremost ‘friend’. And yes you have to perform all of these roles while not becoming so self-righteous that you forget this person’s family has a greater familiarity with this person’s needs than you do and that you should view your role as complementary and supportive. Such a balance creates a comfort level with you and your level of discernment gives peace of mind to those who have a vested interest in your success.
To approach this important role in a more “black and white” fashion could be dangerous indeed and rob your client of other elements you have to offer from deep within yourself.
So manage the size of your company so you can keep an eye on things. Put people first and everyday make them feel like kings and queens. Trust me, you will go to bed each night with this major feeling of contentment like nothing you have ever felt.
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