Live-In Home Care: How best to manage food appropriations – Part 1
Food appropriations combined with meal preparation is often one of the most challenging aspects of live-in home care for both the care recipient and the caregiver – not to mention for other individuals or family members involved in the process. To adequately cover what can be considered a broad topic with many parts, we created a 3 Part Blog Series to include: • Part 1: Introduction to Food Appropriations • Part 2: Assessing Needs and Making Preparations • Part 3: Implementing Policies and Procedures Part 1: Introduction to Food Appropriations For any family exploring live-in home care options, a good measure of time should be spent explaining the industry wide custom of care recipients providing food for their caregiver. At Boardwalk Homecare, our Case Managers further discuss the parameters in place to create fair expectations on both sides - a concept that sounds so simple! But many times families are so incredibly overwhelmed trying to set things up properly that they instinctively triage all of the information coming at them into ‘must do now’ and ‘will deal with as soon as we can breathe’ categories. Unfortunately, this seemingly benign topic often takes a back seat but can wind up causing problems rather quickly. Because food is a basic need for both the care recipient and the caregiver, it really can set things off on a bad foot if this topic is not taken seriously within the live-in service arrangement. Since most of our readers will best understand the vantage point of the family on this subject, we do want to spend some time explaining the caregiver’s perspective and Boardwalk Homecare’s typical response when food issues occur. This will shed some light on what a caregiver goes through on a live-in case and also on how we typically get a handle on this topic prior to it becoming a difficult situation. Unless you personally know a live-in caregiver, it is difficult to imagine what we are about to explain. Unfortunately the humanity of the caregiver sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of dealing with everything else. When navigating the new territory of bringing in care for mom or dad, the focus is on their interest – as it should be! It becomes very difficult to juggle protecting a loved one’s happiness and well-being while also considering this new person in the mix. For families that decide to hire a licensed home care agency, it is obvious to conclude that if one caregiver does not work out, they can always switch to another. Easy...right? Not so much. There are some issues, such as the food appropriations and meal preparation, we are discussing now that can become a very unpleasant theme if not addressed. The same problems will likely occur time and time again…..regardless of caregiver….regardless of agency. The core of the problem needs to be rectified in order to make it better. The alternative is likely a parade of new caregivers which will cause a lot more strife than simply acknowledging the basics and accepting them as necessary. Choosing to be a live-in caregiver is a very humble way to make a living. We can tell you from our experience that although the object of working is to make a living, accepting this type of work goes much deeper. Unless you have an inner calling pulling you towards this type of work, it would be impossible to thrive doing it on a long-term basis. Live-in caregivers endure the hardship of being away from their families and the outside world for weeks or months at a time. They live and work in the same place, without having a definitive end of their work day nor escape from their environment. They subsist all of this out of a well packed bag from home when they accept a new case. This contains all the creature comforts they can muster to get through to the next visit home. But of course it is impossible to haul everything. Food is perishable not to mention it can be heavy and bulky. This is why the industry custom has always been for families to provide food appropriations for their live-in caregiver. When a caregiver comes to work in a home that either has not been set up properly with food (including food for the care recipient) or where families for some reason cannot get behind the idea of having to feed the caregiver, it can be extremely distressing. The first few weeks in working with a new family, the caregiver spends time trying to gain trust and build rapport as well as learn about the intricacies and nuances of this new care recipient they are now responsible for. It is a very sensitive time. Not a time to make waves, not a time to complain. Regardless of whether the live-in caregiver was hired privately or through a licensed home care agency, we often we run into families who have had a negative past experience in relation to food appropriations. A common compliant is when caregivers take advantage of the family’s generosity. Families have told us stories about demanding caregivers who expect families to purchase extensive amounts of food or very expensive items that otherwise would not normally be purchased in the household. In the end, this sort of ‘bad apple greed’ leaves families feeling taken advantage of and we are sensitive to how common this problem can be. This is why at Boardwalk Homecare our Case Managers go over our guidelines for families and caregivers to follow so there is no leeway in expectation on the caregiver’s end. Families also get a concise explanation of what their responsibility is so they begin on a sure footing as well. As an alternative to purchasing food for their live-in caregiver, Boardwalk Homecare also provides a second option for our families. This alternate option adds a modest ‘food stipend’ to the daily cost-of-service which is then transferred into the caregiver’s paycheck. This option excludes families from having to be responsible for the caregiver’s food at all. In these situations, the caregiver will either bring in all of their own food for the month or shop with their own money. In conclusion to Part 1, it is essential for families to decide on how they would prefer to handle the food obligation before they set up live-in home care services. Each situation is unique. Through discussion it usually becomes apparent rather quickly which option (family provides the food or pays a daily stipend) will be the best route to begin.