Over two years ago, my very sick father-in-law requested that my husband and I take in his then 92-year-old wife (who has dementia) when he passed away, which was soon after. We did so, not knowing what to expect. The past two years have been the most challenging in our nearly 32-year marriage, but I’ve learned many compliance lessons (yes, compliance lessons) that can help all of us, caregiver or not:
Make sure your controls are in place, and improve upon them as needed.
As my dear mother-in-law’s dementia progresses, the controls we have in place to protect her and our home have to be regularly tweaked and updated. As an example, the first time she left the bathroom faucet running, our control was to remove the sink stopper, should it ever happen again: that way, the floor would (hopefully) not flood. However, the second time she did it, we knew a new control was needed, so we went online to a store specializing in products for people with Alzheimer’s and ordered a simple tool that hooks up to the faucet. It is now impossible for her to leave the sink running. As you look at controls in your organization, regularly ask yourself if it can be improved in any way and whether anyone can get around it, and then make improvements as needed.
Think one step ahead.
With the help of a book which talks about how the disease typically progresses, my husband and I prepare for what his mom might do next, and then we put a plan in place. For example, if it comes to the point where she is having issues with toileting (did you ever think you’d read about that in a compliance blog?), I would be the one to work with her, in order to help preserve her dignity. While we are trying to keep her at home with us, we’ve already discussed the two things that would cause us to look for a nursing home for her care.
Likewise, you need to think one step ahead when it comes to compliance issues. There are nefarious people who may decide to do harm to your organization next. Stay in the loop about current events so you have discussed and are prepared for the next “thing,” whatever that might be.
Have a sense of humor.
Being a caregiver, and being a compliance officer, are just plain difficult. But it’s so much easier to do both of these with a sense of humor. Just be sure to keep it appropriate, and don’t make jokes at others’ expense.
Somewhere around one in five people working today are also caring for family members. If you are able to at your organization, consider setting up an affinity group for those caregivers, whether your colleagues are caring for children, adults, or someone else. Knowing someone else “gets it” makes the caregiving journey so much easier, reduces stress in the workplace, and increases morale. I’m guessing it could also help create a more ethical workplace as well.