Working Outside the Box




How does a caregiver from North Carolina who went from years of working in one facility to private care to losing her client in the span of two months end up in Long Island? Interesting story…

        I discovered fairly quickly that independent private care was quite a bit different than working for an agency. The family as a whole was much more involved with me as a caregiver than they would have been had I worked for a company. Often we ate together, I took my client out for appointments, the communication was open and honest. It really was a collaboration in order to ensure the best possible care and quality of life. And it was a success! Despite the abruptness of her passing, my client’s last days were filled with fun and family and love. She was genuinely happy and in the process the family and I became close.

         I was somewhat surprised when they approached me with the idea of going and helping them through the funeral. I had been to several funerals of my residents who had died but they were all in the same state. This was in NY. I had my doubts, but my heart said to see this through. My gut instinct said that this would be an experience that could be mutually beneficial on many levels. They needed support and I needed closure.

        “We were hoping you could stay a few weeks and help clean out her house.”…wait. What?! To be fair, they presented me with the idea before the trip up north, but it was still a daunting thought. I had heard all kinds of nightmare stories about the condition of both the house and her son who still resided there. Stories that I later found out were very true.  But they were going to pay me, which took the edge off of the panic of being suddenly unemployed and while I have no experience in cleaning out the house of a deceased person, I knew they felt at peace leaving the task to me. They knew I was trustworthy. After some quick reflection, I decided to take the leap.

        So here I am in Long Island, attempting to do tasks for which I have no framework of experience. I feel equal parts exhilarated and terrified. I have had so many opportunities these past few days to apply lessons I’ve learned in our field in an entirely different arena. Boundary setting, thinking on my feet, communication, multitasking, problem solving, empathetic support, organizing, planning, consistently scheduling tasks, people skills, negotiating behaviors with the brother, efficiency and handling unanticipated situations with solution based thinking are just a few examples of skills that I’ve been using, almost like muscle memory. This completely unexpected situation has been an incredibly clear, if somewhat extreme, example of using what we are taught in the walls of a facility outside in the world because sometimes life is every bit as surreal outside the walls of a facility as it is within them. It’s been a good reminder that sometimes, when the rug is pulled, you just have to take things on faith.

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