One of the most valued and yet at the same time unappreciated jobs has to be the Caregivers in society. When someone in your own family has mental and/or physical health issues of a long-term nature, I can only imagine how stressful that conversation must be of whether or not it’s time to enlist the services of a paid Caregiver.
Some Caregivers work round the clock and live-in with their charges, expected to be energized, well-rested and providing quality care throughout the day, but also to be light sleepers and at the ready in the dead of night should their clients call out. And in addition to their human capacity to nurture, care and empathize with their clients, they are also expected to research all they can about the condition of their patient in particular, and their illness in general.
Many of these Caregivers are required to take their clients outside daily; to the market, around the block, to the parks, bowling, social events, and more. They may have to provide their own cars or vans, navigating the streets with the rest of us while all the while chatting with and dealing with distractions from within their vehicles. Or it could be that public transit is used, and while it becomes less stressful in some ways such as not being responsible for driving, stress has to rise as they deal with all kinds of gawkers, on-lookers, well-wishers, busy-bodies and taunting juveniles too young to know the role they play.
It’s not hard to understand why people need to enlist the services of such people. A good Caregiver can reduce the daily stress of a person caring for an elderly parent. Many people might want to take time off to care for their own family members, but bills still have to be paid, mortgages kept up, and thus faced with the difficult choices of providing for oneself and providing for a parent, enter in the discussion of enlisting a Caregiver.
Here in Canada, statistics tell us that we have a very large population of older people, and in the coming 3 – 8 years that large group is going to swell to a huge number as all the baby-boom generation shift into the retiring categories, and many of them needing care. The services of Personal Support Workers, Caregivers and Companions is going to exhaust the current number of those available, and the good ones will have no problem finding employment. In fact, if you have a car and licence in good standing, and are in good physical health yourself with a propensity to enjoy providing care for others, you may be in high demand if you are a Caregiver for years to come.
And it’s not only the old and feeble that people care for. No, it may be middle-aged people with mental and physical health issues. Even younger people are out there in need of care, but the stereotype is the older client.
And I admire the Caregivers for many reasons. They take charge of cleaning patients up who have had urinated or worse in bed and need fresh linens and clothing. They deal with patients who may not be fully or even slightly in charge of their mental faculties and may not even know who they are whatsoever, thinking one day they are a child of their own, or someone out to rob them when they sleep. They can be verbally abused in this way, treated poorly and unappreciated by their charges, underpaid by their employers, questioned thoroughly if something goes missing, expected to render medications but first suspected if medications cause problems.
Caregivers are also angels among us. They allow people to carry on with their jobs, providing income for their own families. They provide respite for frazzled people who need a mental break themselves, who are overwhelmed and laden with guilt from not being where they think they need to be in order to be where they have to be. They endure all the slander mentioned above, they are expected to bond and enjoy the company of the irritable, and quickly endear themselves to their clients so that the search for a Caregiver is concluded to everyone’s satisfaction.
You might think these people would be handsomely paid for their services, but in truth the financial compensation they receive is limited. Their formal education and training may be limited to some basic first aid courses, sessions in how to deal with difficult people and a Certificate program in providing personal care. They could conceivably be on social assistance or seeking a career change, a registered nurse looking to branch out, a previously unemployed person taking this job thinking it’s a stop-gap measure while they look for what they call, ‘a real job’. They come with many different motivations and stories themselves.
Depending on a families needs, they may take time to find the right person, or they may just throw the cheapest person into the job if they don’t have the time, patience or interest in hiring the very best they can find.
If you are a Caregiver, I applaud your vocation and your choice. I for one certainly hope that you do your very best daily to provide high quality care, and that you are appreciated for your work by those who pay you, those in your care, those you meet and that it’s reflected in the compensation you receive.