Across the last six years I have benefitted from the full range of home care services and helpers at various times. I’ve used fully funded government care services, agencies and privately employed helpers. To start with, I really struggled with being able to ask for the help I needed. I had a hard time building productive relationships and an even more difficult time saying when it was time for it to end. I learned ‘on the job’ how to best approach the necessity of home help.
Are you considering having home help, too? Maybe your own capacity to do the things that need doing has been gradually diminishing. Or perhaps yours is more of a relapsing and remitting picture. Maybe your partner has reached maximum coping capacity. It’s time to bring someone in from the outside to help out before the wheels fall off completely. It’s a challenge, an adjustment and can enrich your family’s life enormously.
Having someone in your home, helping you out, is like embarking on a new relationship, like a marriage …kinda!
At first you only want to be seen in your best light. Then, the initial rush of infatuation may fade. If there isn’t a solid basis of honesty, it will be hard to maintain positive communication channels. After a while, you feel like they should just know what it is you need them to do, even if you haven’t directly asked. There will be small frustrations that can fester into big situations if you don’t address them. And just like a new relationship, it will take time to get to know the person and them, you. It’s an art that takes practise; clear communication is a skill.
Here are some of the things I have learned over the years.
Talk. And don’t talk.
It’s hard to transition from home-maker to home-care employer. I have spent a lifetime making sure I don’t need to ask people to do anything for me. So like anyone who reluctantly finds themselves being “boss” without prior experience, there are things to learn about taking the leadership role with your home care provider. Asking directly is incredibly hard for me, it makes me feel so uncomfortable. So we started up a communications notebook. I write in it the night before, all the tasks that need doing and mark the priorities. The notebook is great because our home carer can write in it too if we need to replenish supplies of anything or make notes about the progress through the list. It also means we don’t get caught up in chatter without the work getting done.
Ever heard that saying, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’?
Before your carer ever begins, sit down and work out the job description. Be specific and realistic about things like tasks, hours, pay rate, tax. Try to anticipate the questions so you can provide the information on the first visit. Specify any no-go-zones. Also, try to make time for a chat once a week, during working hours. Ask your home carer how it is going, ask for suggestions about how things might be done differently/ better/ more effectively. This meeting over a cuppa is a great way to raise any issues that may have arisen, it builds the foundations of a good working arrangement.
Sometimes, the relationship will work, other times it won’t.
If your home-carer is new to your home, allow a few weeks for them to settle in to the role. Don’t assume it is going to always be difficult just because it’s a struggle at first. If however it isn’t working after a good amount of effort and flexibility; make the change you need to make. Having someone in your personal space who doesn’t, even with communication, understand your needs will significantly add to your stress. Home help is a very personal role and you need to be happy with the person who spends so much time in your private world. If they come from an agency you can ask for a switch in carer. It can take time to find the right fit, don’t give up until you find it.
Maintain a professional, friendly, working relationship.
Make sure everyone in the family understands that you are the employer and it’s not their job to ask your home helper to do anything. Similarly, even if your home help is familiar to your children, they will need to know that they still must come to you for permissions. In our home the rule is that if Mum’s at home, Mum’s in charge. 🙂 Maintenance of any relationship takes kindness, flexibility and a willingness to find alternative solutions. Most issues can be solved with one or all of these three attributes.
Help may be closer than you think!
Be creative in your search for the right person. After finding help from a range of sources in the past, I was very surprised one day when I was asked if I would consider employing a friend for the job. Cami already spends a lot of time with our family and knows our routines like her own. She is also a talented house keeper with great organisational skills and a mother herself. My children like to call her their ‘other mother’. Her intuition and close connection to our family make for the most positive home help experience we have ever had. When it comes to home help in a family with young children, it may be worth asking around the people in your close circle. For Cami, who needed a flexible part time role and for us, it’s been a win-win. Thanks Cami, we’re glad you are part of our team!