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What You Need to Do if Mom Won’t Let Others Do Their Job
Frank Blood
/ Categories: Care, Organizing, Services

What You Need to Do if Mom Won’t Let Others Do Their Job

We can’t solve problems until we’ve asked the right questions. Consider this complaint from a family caregiver. “Every time I visit my mom (age 92, lives alone) I find dusty furniture, dirty floors and bathrooms that need cleaning. Mom likes her home care worker but says she spends a lot of time texting and talking on the phone. The home care worker likes my mom but says every time she starts to clean up, my mom tells her not to because she wants to do it herself. I’m not sure what the truth is but I don’t want Mom living in a messy house. What can I do?”

Since the family caregiver had previously spoken to the home care aide about this issue, and the situation is still unresolved, it might be better to arrange a meeting with everyone involved including the manager of the home care agency. The purpose would be to identify obstacles to a good relationship and agree on how to overcome them. The agency should have a written care plan on file that specifically states the services it is to provide and the manager would bring it to the meeting. It’s important to regularly review care plans and change them as necessary, so this would be an appropriate time to get it done.


Caregivers are also negotiators

Most of the top home care businesses genuinely want to do the best job possible and go to great lengths to obtain feedback to improve their performance and ensure client satisfaction. Excellent home care, de facto all care giving, is like auto-pilot for a plane in that there are continuous course corrections. However, if they aren’t talking to the right people or aren’t asking the right questions, the agency won’t know that their client or other family members aren’t happy with their service. Consequently, they won’t know what needs changing. It is up to the primary caregiver to let them know who the right people are.

I’ve personally asked for quite a few meetings with agencies. I don’t care for formality so I simply ask if we can get together to talk about a few things. I try to keep the conversation light and positive. You can run your meeting any way you like so long as you know specifically what you want and you can recognize when they’ve agreed to give it to you.

In our example, there may be several misunderstandings getting in the way of a happy relationship. All anyone really knows at this point is that the aide has seen the care plan and has agreed to carry out his or her duties. Some aides are more of the type to take charge when told to let chores go and just do them despite protests. But others, like in this instance, are submissive to their client’s instructions.

It has nothing to do with laziness or an inability to perform a task on the part of the compliant person. In fact, it usually bothers them when they are prevented from doing the job they’re supposed to do. The aide should have received instruction on proper ways to handle this when she went through training but it’s hard to fight inherent traits. In this case, it may be best to try a different aide, even if Mom really likes this one.


It’s not just the aide: it’s Mom too

You must also consider why Mom is telling the aide not to clean. The right questions can get to the root of the problem and enhance the quality of her life; which is always the goal. It is a common misconception among older people, especially mothers, that they can still do the work as well as they used to. Mom may have taken considerable pride in her ability to keep the house spotless. Someone else doing her work goes against her grain. Or, she may be having difficulty with the emotional consequences of aging.

Communication with the elderly, even when there is no dementia, can be difficult; which is why it’s important to verify that you understand their meaning. With some, it’s like having to solve one riddle after another. Perhaps Mom is lonely or bored and wants someone to be more of a companion but doesn’t know how to tell her. You won’t know until you ask enough questions and keep an open mind when you hear the answers. In this case, the submissive aide might be perfect for Mom if there is agreement on how the house will be kept clean. Mom must agree that she will let the aide do the chores listed in the care plan and the aide must agree that she will be firm with Mom about doing them before sitting down to chat.

In the end, you must be happy with the new care plan. If Mom could live safely on her own, you wouldn’t be her caregiver and she wouldn’t need home care. It’s hard to tell our loved ones that they can’t have it their way all the time. So, if your mom needs to swallow her pride to have a clean house, that’s the way it has to be. Just be certain that you’ve uncovered the source of the problem so that going forward everyone is clear on what they need to do. You can always find another aide but you’ll never find another mom.

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