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Posted: February 25, 2008

Practical Caregiving

More on Those Food Tips -- and How to Find a Caring Caregiver

In a recent column, I told you about a non-profit organization that will sell you $70 worth of food for $30 a possible boon for caregivers and loved ones on fixed incomes. I told you then that I would try it out myself and let you know how it worked.

Well, I think it’s a terrific deal. And, the food is good quality. You do need to supplement it with other foods throughout the month.

When I looked at the food I received with my order, I realized how different it was from what I normally buy. There were beef top sirloin steaks, beef back ribs, various pork chops, other meats, other types of foods as well as black eye peas. I have never tasted black eye peas, but this is a good thing (living in the Midwest) because I like to try new foods.

I’ll also need to get into the routine of cooking and taking lunches to work that I prepare. Cooking food from scratch is healthier than buying prepared food. This is a win-win situation.

When I was standing in line for my order, several of us started talking. Some were family caregivers, some were single women with small children, some were middle aged, and some were elderly. There were people who appeared poor and people who looked like the average every-day working person. Everyone was excited about getting more food for less money.

This isn’t a government program; all you do is order the food and pay for it, then about two weeks later you pick it up. There is no application and no qualifications to meet. Why don’t you check it out? Angel Food Ministries at I think you'll like it.


 Now, to a question from my e-mailbag:

 Dear Jean:

Mom has Alzheimer's, and we have caregivers for her a couple times every day. The caregiver that comes in the morning won’t get Mom up. She lets Mom sleep so she won’t have to do anything. The other caregivers do take care of Mom, but the lazy caregiver in the morning even avoids talking to me.

I hope this isn't affecting the care she gives Mom; it's so hard to get good help. I hate to put the unnecessary stress on Mom of changing caregivers again. I'm thinking of finding a better agency. I don't understand why so many people in this field [caregiving] don't seem to care about the person they're taking care of. I have such a hard time watching someone else take care of Mom, but I can't take care of her. The caregiver that comes on the weekend is good and Mom likes her.

It’s frustrating for me to sit and watch Mom not get the care she deserves. What should I do? Hope you're happy and healthy.

Amy V., Garden Grove, California

Dear Amy:

I am happy and healthy. Thanks for caring!

You're right, though: it is so hard to find good help. Just realize and remember that you’ll have to continually change caregivers for your mother. That's just the way it works. She will adjust fairly quickly, if they are good.

Most of the people who take care of the elderly and ill do a good job and actually care about the person. They may not do things the way you would, but their job is acceptable. Then there are the other ones -- make sure a background check has been done before letting them in the home. Sadly, some will take things from the house and some will mistreat the person they are taking care of. Then, some will just plain do nothing while they are there. Watch for signs of any of these things.

Realize, too, that you will not find any agency that has all high quality caregivers. They do their best, but sometimes the less desirable people slip in.

In the Yellow Pages, there are places called home health care agencies. You can call any of them and ask them to evaluate your mother. They should not charge for that. Ask all the questions you can, especially about what’s involved in their background checks and if they actually call references.

You also can call the social worker at a hospital to see if they know any more about a caregiver than you do. Check if your state evaluates the agencies themselves, for a helpful indication of quality.

Remember one thing: you have the right to tell an agency you do not want a certain person to come back. They will ask why, and you should give them an honest answer. It will help others later. I had to do that more than once.

Be sure to drop in on the caregiver when they don’t know you are coming. That way you can get a better idea of what they are doing. If you see something questionable, tell the agency you do not want the caregiver to return. Your mother's care is what is important.

Always look for signs that you mother should not be alone. There will come a time when it will be dangerous for her to be alone. She might start wandering and perhaps even get lost. When you see signs that question her ability to be alone, do something before she hurts herself or someone else.

Believe me, Amy, I know it is hard when your mother has Alzheimer's. It's such a horrible disease. And professional caregivers who don't really care can make it worse. In the end, though, I do know there are many that are good and actually do care of the person they are helping. 

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