​Hiring Outside Caregivers

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on February 12, 2021 # Caregiving

Boy! I certainly had high expectations when I was first looking to hire an outside caregiver. I had the perfect person created in my mind. My son Zack was 15 years old when he became a quadriplegic after a beach accident. I was picturing an 18–25-year-old with mind-reading skills, knowing what to do before Zack even had to ask, becoming best friends! What a hilarious thought now. Not that people can’t find this (maybe minus the mind-reading) with proper training and time, this could happen. It wasn’t just the fact that I’d given 110% for three straight years and was feeling it now or the fact I had three other young kids at the time who needed more of my attention.Amber standing next to Zack laying in bed

I believed it would do Zack some good. He was used to me doing his care that even when his dad jumped in, he would call me into redo most of it. This was a sign to me that we needed to expand our world. I can’t blame Zack. I’m his mom. I went and still do go above and beyond, and I know him better than most. I understood that what looked like nit-picky stuff to others was important to Zack. He had very little control over much anything so fixing his pants just right was not him being difficult. You and I fix our pants exactly how we want them to fit and that’s all he was asking. He just couldn’t do it for himself. I also didn’t want to create a non-flexible human.

I knew working with other people would give Zack exposure to different personalities. This would allow him to learn and grow. My ultimate goal was independence, this was the start. Mom’s not going to be here forever, I’m not as young as I was. After convincing Zack, this was a positive thing and when he felt a little more open to the idea, we started looking. Zack’s insurance covers some caregiving, but we quickly found out that the caregivers we met through this program seemed to be only trained in elderly care. Being a C-4 paralyzed quadriplegic, now about age 18, was not that common. Zack is also 6ft. tall and requires full lifts to the bed and wheelchair.

When it didn’t work out finding anyone that way, I decided to place an ad. This felt scary. I had terrible thoughts about my son, who can’t protect himself, being left in the care of a stranger. But I still felt we needed to do this. I posted the ad. I could tell within minutes of talking on the phone if they would even get an interview. Many I politely turned down but set up a few in-person interviews at the local Starbucks. We wrote out questions, but we mostly wanted to see if a connection would be made. Everything can be taught, the caregiver can learn how the client wants certain things, but it’s also nice to click with them.Amber standing help Zack put shoes on while he is in bed

After confirming past experience, the next step was having the new caregiver over and begin training. This definitely felt odd having a total stranger in my home. On the first day of training, I had the caregiver watch and follow me to watch our routine. Asking questions as needed, I talked them through all we did during his morning routine. In the second session, they did the care with my help and on the third training day, they did everything, and I was just there as needed. Once the caregiver was trained, they would do Zack’s care while I was in the house doing other things. Since we hired outside caregivers, it was up to us to say what we needed. I learned saying upfront what you need/want help with is very important, be very specific and add more duties than you think. You can always take away but adding details can make someone feel taken advantage of. I had made clear that along with Zack’s personal duties came light house cleaning. Usually, dishes, taking out the trash, making Zack’s bed and preparing food later included running errands. Example picking up prescriptions, putting gas in his wheelchair van or getting a few groceries or lunch. We paid by the hour. It turns out Zack’s first caregiver outside the family was a philopena man in his 40’s not at all what I had pictured in my head when we started this process, but fate has its way of teaching us and he became part of the family. He had sons of his own and was able to relate on a father type level. He even ended up staying in the college dorm Zack’s first semester of college. As of now, ten years post-injury we have had about six to seven caregivers. Some have done their job and moved on. Others have become friends. When looking for an outside caregiver, stay open-minded and be grateful and appreciative!

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.