It’s that time again: I need a new carer. Seeking a new carer is a bit like looking for a new friend through interviewing people. The first challenge is to find someone qualified (not always easy), then comes the hope that you’ll bond well with said person. Just from one or two interviews and a boring CV, you have to decide, “Yes, of course we’d get along several hours a day, five days a week.”
Care work isn’t like office work where you can hide from the boss you hate. Carer and client will constantly interact with one another, and if you’re not on a similar wavelength things can get awkward fast.
I’ve been relatively lucky so far. On average we interview five people before encountering someone suitable. When you surpass that mark you start questioning everything. Why are so many dispassionate people trying to make it as carers? Why apply for a care job when you’ve obviously never tried talking to a disabled person in your life? Does the right person exist?
They do exist if you search enough. I’ve worked with a few great carers now. A great carer makes life easier. They’re there to help you achieve both the mundane and the massive goals. They’re willing and able to interchange between follower and leader, depending on the situation: in other words, they know when to step back and let the client take control. Personality is also a big one for me. While my parents are mostly judging by professionalism, I’m looking for a slight edge in a person. The last thing I want is to take someone to a festival only to have them bitch and moan all night about being the only sober one there. So, they have to be able to have fun without getting high or drunk, they have to be cool-headed and open to new experiences and people, they have to be open if not encouraging towards weird requests/queries (not that weird), and most of all I’d like them to be human and passionate about what they do. Oh, and they need a driver’s license. Oh, and they need to live relatively near my house. It’s not easy finding this person.
The worst part is choosing people to interview based solely off their CVs. You have to guess what the person is like from a little paragraph of vague hobbies. Some people gobble up dictionaries and write superb CVs, then when you meet up with them they don’t know how to talk to you and at worst come at you with baby-speak (lots of ‘awws’).
It’s all worth it when you find someone you get along with. There have been times when I’ve been working with someone special and have paused to appreciate the situation and reflect upon how well we match up. Some of my best friends were originally my carers. You know you have a good friend if they still enjoy your company after having already spent hundreds of days at your side (not to mention the countless times they’ve seen you naked).
As with all relationships, people can change and things can end. It’s especially hard when things end so badly that you’re left questioning whether that bond you built together was all a sham and feeling like just another client who existed to pay the bills. At these rare times I start resenting the need for a carer and wish I could just live on my own.
Here’s some tips for carers who want to avoid conflict: 1) Don’t tell me big lies. Our relationship relies on trust from a lot of angles. If you lie to me about your actions or intentions, good luck keeping me convinced.
2) If you’re going to bitch about me behind my back, first ensure your door is soundproof. Better still, don’t do it in the room opposite mine. Oh, and bitching about the fact that you have to dress me is stupid – dressing me is part of your job.
3) Seriously, don’t lie to me. You’re near me more than my family and we probably know a lot about each other’s lives. If you lie to me in order to mask a mistake and I find out about said lie, you’d better do something special to make amends.
And some rules I try to stick to as the client:
1) Don’t give out orders. Never act like you’re above your carer.
2) Have reasonable expectations. Nobody’s going to approach every task the same way you might. Most of the time it doesn’t matter if they put sugar in the tea before the milk – try it first, you might like it better.
3) Be honest and open. If you have a worry that you think your carer could help with, ask.
4) Have a sense of humour. I think this applies to both carer and client. A lot of the awkwardness of your first few weeks together can be eased through laughter. Once you find each others’ level, that’s when things start to click.
Right now I’m in a sour situation and I just want to start afresh. So here we go with the interviews. Hopefully this won’t be too painful.