Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Working at Camp Shrader. Or you know, how to hire the best Personal Care Attendant!

I was a camp counselor during my college years. Besides considering those some of my best summers ever, I also know that it was in the those summers that I grew up, that I learned what it means to available 24 hours a day for someone -- or in the case of camp, 14 someones!

I developed a rather quick reputation during camp orientation for being the one who asked all the questions. I wasn't sure what to expect and really wanted to be prepared for anything and everything. And it was a good thing I did -- because every crazy scenario I had come up with to ask about during that training, pretty much happened to me my first week of camp! Oh my! I learned how to do tasks that it would never (and I mean never ever) have occurred to me to do for someone -- and smile about it. I learned to face flat-out hard issues and love my girls through. I learned that if woken in the middle of the night, I had a soft, calm voice apparently -- who knew! I learned how to get up close and personal with complete strangers and serve them for a full week.

Sigh. I love camp.

We are almost a year into the tenure of hiring a team of personal care attendants for Benjamin. We had a team of three for many months and recently added a couple new members. I am fairly certain that it is safe to say these last 10 months have been quite a learning curve for our team, for Benjamin, and perhaps most of all, for me the mom.

I expect a lot.

And yes, those of you who know me in real life are nodding your heads as this is a general description of my personality. My expectations are always -- regardless of whether we are talking about vacations, friends, work, whatever -- super high. Always.

And so, going in to what this new team would mean for Benjamin was no different. I expected a lot.

If I am honest, I expected the team to fall in love with us like I fell in love with 14 campers every single week of summer for years. I expected relationships to be forged and frankly, I expected a delight in caring for my son (Ok, so this one seems a bit rose-colored-glasses I know, but Benjamin is an amazing young man!). You know, I expected camp in my house. Every day.

Really. Is that too much?

There are so many problems with this approach. The obvious being that I am fairly certain not one of the team members was expecting camp. Oh.

We were a few months in when my feelings were hurt because an attendant canceled their work day from the calendar with too little notice for a replacement. My wise-much-less-emotional-husband reminded me that this was a job to our team and that I needed to treat it as a job as well. Ugh.

To be fair -- and by fair I mean I am totally defending myself here -- Benjamin's personal care attendants are in our home for most of their work shift, every single day. We eat our meals together often. We watch tv together often. We spend a lot of time together.

So here is what I am saying -- the role of personal care attendant is much like the role of camp counselor. You are up close and personal with your employer -- in our case Benjamin -- and the relationship that develops DOES in fact require you to cross over the lines from work-focused employee to work-focused caregiver. I love that word.

Caregiver. A personal care attendant's role is far more than employee-employer -- it is some one who gives CARE, who helps Benjamin through the everyday living skills required to reach his goals and dreams. And when you care, you don't let him go out in public with food on his clothes, or a dirty wheelchair. As a caregiver, you make sure he is hydrated. You check for pressure sores.

And as the name implies -- you care.

One of our team members has served as Benjamin's scribe all year. She barely gets in the door before he has laid out the plan for their day ahead. He dictates, she types and that has allowed him to write some amazing pieces this year! (Sorry. Rose-colored glasses again.)

One of our new team members shows up for work every day and immediately starts talking with Benjamin. If you know my son in real life, you know that he loves to talk. They are engaged in conversation from the time she walks in the door. 

They both show they care.

My expectations are still high. I recognize that. But when you are trusting the care of your child -- and let's face it, no matter his age, he will always be my child -- with someone (or in our case a team of someones) I think high expectations are imperative. I believe this team can rise to the challenges for the job, I believe they CAN eagerly provide the care Benjamin requires and I am determined to make it feel like camp around here!

S'mores anyone? 

Carol - The Blessings Counter