Beware of "10 years experience"

This industry is largely unregulated.

If you know someone or someone at an agency then you have a job. It doesn't take much to take care of people. A sweet gentle demeanor is a bonus. My state, MA, has set up a skills training program at a community college designed to get people off of welfare. Teach a man to fish is the motto. If they can complete a basic home skills/caregiver training course then they will have a job and career for life. Good for everyone right?

One of the requirements that I hear from our clients/patients is that they want someone "with experience". No 95 year old wants to train some newbie on how to wipe their butt and dispose of bathroom trash. They just want someone to come in and do it in a dignified manner, cleanly and without fuss, make them comfortable and then go sit in the other room, watch TV until called upon. Take care of me without instruction please, I'm too old.

Agencies are at a loss sometimes because there is more work than caregivers. What to do? They start digging into the bottom of the barrel to pull up anyone who can count to 10 frontwards and backwards. It's hard because clients will often times request people with experience. Well sometimes those people are all scheduled and busy. So out go the newbies. The biggest line they are given to introduce themselves to the patient with is "I have 10 years experience." Beware the 10 year experienced care giver. This job isn't hard but it does take a certain personality. A lot of these jobs are really just for companionship, making sandwiches, doing laundry etc. Anyone who has taken care of a family can do this. We are told to say "10 years" to reassure the patient that we know what we are doing. Certainly if there are medical maintenance procedures to perform like cleaning colostomies, changing catheter bags, administering complicated meds then you need someone with training, 10 years experience or not. Agencies understand that and the liability. But for everything else "10 years experience" is the magic phrase. If it's really important to you to have someone with experience then ask for "15 years experience" or "20". Or ask for someone who has been with a client for a year plus. If they have staying power then that's a real bonus, 10 years experience or not.

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