Settling In Part 1: In-Home Care

Eight weeks ago, Kate and I moved into our new home in a local retirement community. Over the weekend, I met a couple who moved in two months before we did. He told me what a big change it had been after living in their home over forty years in the same town in which they had grown up. I could relate to what he must have felt. All my established routines were disrupted, and I’ve been working to establish new ones.

I’m happy to report that we’re making progress.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve felt much more settled. That relates to three aspects of our lives that have improved significantly. In this post, I’ll tell you about Kate’s In-Home Care and follow that with posts about Kate herself and then me.

Prior to Kate’s hospitalization with COVID eight days before Thanksgiving, we had help from caregivers three afternoons a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, four hours for each day. We maintained that schedule for three years. We were fortunate that the caregiver who came on two days a week was with us the entire time. We had 3 or 4 for the remaining day. During this time, the demands on the caregivers were minor. I just needed someone to be with Kate while I was gone. They didn’t have to be in charge of any of her personal needs.

We were approaching the time she would require more care when she and I tested positive for COVID. Before she entered the hospital, I arranged for 8-hour daily care for her. Our regular agency was unable to fill the schedule. That led to my adding a second agency that provided help the four days not already served by the first agency. I’m grateful for their coming to my aid on such short notice, and I thought all of the caregivers were able to perform the needed tasks. Unlike our original agency, however, they never provided the consistency that I wanted. During the 5 months prior to our move, they sent us 6-8 different caregivers. They were all competent, but it was impossible for Kate to develop a comfortable relationship with them.

Our move required some adjustment. Our retirement community has its own home-care agency (Caring Hearts), but they do allow caregivers from other agencies to work here. There were two catches. The first is outside caregivers have to complete the same requirements as their own employees. That involves background checks, an all-day orientation, and health requirements. In addition, there was a $320 charge to me for each caregiver. As it turned out, only two caregivers chose to go through the process, one from each of the other two agencies.

The best news is that one of our caregivers, Adrienne, was already employed by Caring Hearts as well as the agency we had worked with for three years. She is also our best caregiver. As a result, it worked for her to cover 10 out of every 14 days. She gets every other weekend off as well as every Friday. The caregiver who has been with us over 3 ½ years continues to come on Fridays, and Caring Hearts is providing a new person for the weekend Adrienne is not with us.

These changes have had two major effects. First, our daily routine is decidedly more consistent. Adrienne shares some of my OCD tendencies and has a steady routine. Second, It gives Kate a chance to develop a closer relationship with her.  She has 3 different caregivers rather than 6-8. Only one of them is new. She is young (19) and has limited experience, but she is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and is in school to become a nurse and then a physicians assistant. I’m optimistic about her.

I am especially pleased with the daily routine. When Adrienne is here, I feel more comfortable about leaving and regularly leave for lunch on Wednesday and Sunday very shortly after she arrives. She is the only caregiver that gets Kate up and dressed without any help from me; however, I have been helping her when we take Kate to the balcony or outside the apartment. I also help her get Kate ready for bed.

Apart from her routine, I like other things that she initiates on her own. For example, she has designated Wednesdays as “Spa Day” for Kate. On that day, she does Kate’s nails. She also takes more time getting Kate up each day. She works very slowly bathing, changing, and dressing her. She’s very good about making sure Kate gets her fluids, something I have found most of our past caregivers haven’t made a priority. I almost forgot to say that Adrienne always fixes a nice breakfast/lunch for Kate every time she is here. She is French and make French toast, French omelets, and fruit. On top of these things, she doesn’t ask if there is anything she can do for me. She just does the things that need to be done. She regularly takes care of washing and drying clothes, taking out the trash and recycling, organizing, and letting me know when we need new supplies.

This change in care has had a noticeable impact on both Kate and me. I’ll say more about that in my following posts. At the moment, I’m just glad that our in-home care is working well, and that makes life better for both of us.

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