On June 18, 2005 I received a call from Michelle in Scarsdale. Actually, the call came in at 7:00 in the morning so it was on my answering machine when I arrived that day. Michelle sounded quite agitated as if she were trying to control her panic.
I called her back at 9:00 and said, “You sounded very anxious in your message. How can I help you?” She replied that a friend assured her, “If anyone can help you it is Eva at Europa Domestics –she has gotten me help several times over the years.”
Michelle had three children, ages 3, 1½ and a newborn. Her neighbor recommended that she hire her girl because she was moving to Florida, and the girl did not want to leave the area. Michelle knew the nanny and was thrilled at how easy this all was. At the time she was using a nanny who could not live in and could only work a 30 hour week from 9 to 3. She realized with the birth of a third child she would need a live in situation.
The neighbor moved and the nanny said she would start in one month as Michelle had requested. While Michelle was in the hospital giving birth her husband tried to call the new nanny several times, leaving several messages but received no reply. He was getting nervous but did not want to worry Michelle. Finally the day before Michelle was to come home he had to give her the bad news.
In fact, she did end up calling two weeks later to say she was back in Guatemala because her mother was ill and was very sorry about the trouble she may have caused with various excuses as to why she hadn’t called earlier. She hoped they had hired a nice person.
When I received the call from Michelle, the mom in me was ignited. I wanted to say I’ll be right over, but what I said was, “I will get you someone immediately, please don’t worry -leave it to me.” I asked her for details about her family and what sort of nanny would be a good fit for her in her home, but after her disappointing experience with the originally scheduled nanny cancelling at the last minute, she was a bit taken aback. She was convinced there was no way I could help her with her needs on such short notice. I was determined to do everything I could to help her and her family.
I asked Michelle what her key priorities were, going into such details as her preferences for a nanny who was not only comfortable reading to her older children, but really enjoyed reading as well as playing fun and educational games with them. She also wanted the nanny to understand the importance of nutritious meals and snacks for the children, and to be able to prepare some of them. She wanted someone who was a genuinely good listener and who could instill that quality in her children.
I felt a lot of pressure because I know from experience when you reach out for people they are usually not home and you must wait for a return call, but I was confident I could find Michelle her nanny.
I usually work together with one of my two assistants but I called the second assistant and explained the urgency of the situation and then the three of us began the extensive search.. First we stepped up all of the interviews, which had been scheduled throughout the week and asked them to come in that day if that was at all possible. Next, we reviewed and pulled files of the women we believed to be suitable. By 2:00 that afternoon we had three outstanding candidates. I called Michelle and asked if she would like to speak to them and decide if she wanted to interview all three, or eliminate someone based on her conversation. She had lengthy discussions with the three women and arranged two interviews for that evening and one for the following day.
I walked Michelle through some of the key questions to ask the candidates during their interviews, including the importance of situational interviewing in presenting various scenarios in order to see how the potential nannies would respond. I advised her to ask each potential nanny how she would handle a situation in which one of the children exhibited unacceptable behavior. For example, how would she react if she took them to the grocery store and one or both threw a temper tantrum because they could not have something they wanted? Other important questions included how the nanny would handle a medical emergency, and at what point would they call 911?
Michelle called me the next day to say she had made a choice, which was difficult because she was very torn between two of the women, but she said that my advice helped her to make the right one.
When we spoke again at the end of the week Michelle joked she wanted to give me her firstborn in gratitude.
In April of ’05 I got a call from an anxious and exasperated woman in Short Hills. She said her father had early stage Alzheimer’s, needed assistance when walking, supervision regarding his medication, and companionship for his depression and loneliness. She said he used to be quite pleasant, albeit very opinionated but lately he had become very ornery and isolated.
She had gone through 3 different companions, all of whom, she assured me were sensitive and patient. However, because of his somewhat offensive manner and his insistence that he did not need their help, each of them left the job. His daughter, Marcia, lived in Plainfield, not too far away but found it difficult to look in on him more than once a week. His diet was poor and she was never sure if he took his prescribed medications. Having lost his wife 3 years earlier, his condition deteriorated quickly.
The biggest problem Marcia was facing was his insistence that he was self sufficient and only wanted someone to come in once a week to clean. Marcia, however, saw the decline and sadness in her dad and felt helpless. She just did not know what to do.
She found the name of my agency on the Internet and decided to call.
After she explained her dilemma I walked her through similar situations I had come upon in the course of my business.
First, I told Marcia to go into detail describing her dad and inquired about what type of personality she thought would be a good match. When it comes to choosing a caregiver, this is a really important part of the process. You need someone who will mesh well with the person they are providing care for so that both are comfortable with the relationship.
Finding the right person for elderly care involvesasking the right questions and knowing what qualities to look for in a care provider. Just because someone comes highly recommended and qualified does not guarantee they will be the right match for your needs. If you’re working with an agency, you need to make sure they know the right things to look for to find the best candidate for you.
She mentioned his native language was Polish.So a perfect candidate would be one who knew his language and his culture.Marcia was looking for someone who would understand and respect that her dad wanted to be self-sufficient; someone who could help him without making it seem like help.
I suggested to Marcia that if her dad, Harold, was firm about not needing full time help, we could start slowly and work our way up once he had developed a relationship and rapport with someone.
I concentrated on interviewing mature, Polish women. Marcia thought her dad would do well with someone outgoing – to get him out of his shell. I offered 3 compatible candidates for Marcia to interview and she took well to all of them but particularly loved one of them.
We explained our strategy to Bojena who was very willing to comply. Bojena was friendly and helpful, cooked the foods he was fond of, and supervised his daily routine. Each week we increased the amount of time Bojena was with him. By the time it turned into a full time job Harold was more than compliant. He came to enjoy her company and care and after 2 months he wanted her to live there.
It is particularly important to proceed gently and slowly with a proud elderly person who is beginning to go into decline.
Harold had to be ready before he accepted the arrangement of having a live in companion. Needless to say, Marcia was greatly relieved knowing her dad was happy and well cared for.
In 2007 Lilly called me from Deal NJ. A friend of a friend had referred her to me. Lilly is the mother of a 4 children, one of whom was a 7-year-old autistic girl. She had someone who had been with her for 3 years and after that caregiver left she was not able to find a replacement with whom she was comfortable.
She had been through 4 women in the past 6 months and was beginning to feel desperate. When she called me, I assured her that we would be successful in finding someone for her.
I asked Lilly to go into detail about her daughter and what sort of individual she thought would be the right type of person to care for her. She told me she needed someone who was very patient and kind but also capable of being assertive when necessary. Her daughter Hanna was comfortable letting someone do everything for her. A nanny would have to insist that Hanna do some personal things for herself. With proper prodding the right person could get Hanna to mostly dress herself and conduct most of her bathroom needs alone. Hanna needed constant instruction and direction –someone with a strong personality. Lilly also wanted the nanny to tutor her to some degree.
Lilly was seeking someone to live in 6 days a week. I explained to Lilly that if Hanna needed constant attention, one woman would get burned out. I suggested we split the job between 2 women. Each would work 3 or 4 days a week so she would have total coverage. I further suggested the woman should speak English perfectly, which would probably necessitate a native born person.
This would be a very important task since Lilly needed to trust that her daughter would be left with the proper person. Through a large pool of properly qualified people, we were able to hone in on precisely the right type of help and to provide Lilly with many options. This was essential in finding the right fit for her special needs daughter.
When an autistic child is concerned, you need a caregiver who has personal experience with the needs of the child or someone who is properly trained and experienced in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many parents find that people who have a personal connection to someone with Autism actually make better caregivers than just those who have studied the condition.
At the end of the week I had interviewed at least 6 women who I thought were excellent possibilities. Two of the women had personal situations in their lives where they had experience with autism in their family. In one case it was a mother who had an autistic child and the other was the sister of an autistic sibling.
Lilly was very thorough in her interviews, and upon my suggestion observed the candidates in action to further narrow the field.
She hired one woman, Sandra, a 40-year-old woman who had several years of experience working with 2 different families that had autistic children. And she also hired the woman whose only experience with autism was growing up with an autistic sister.
The outcome was gratifying as Lily was happy with her final choices and has since referred a number of clients to me for assistance.