I had been working at a home care agency for around a month and a half when I came to a sad realization: senior management did not care, AT ALL, about the safety of their employees, and cared only minimally about the safety of their clients, for liability’s sake.
A call came in around lunch time one Friday. The caller was a man in his 40’s (we’ll call him “Joe”), who was requesting a female caregiver to provide companionship and incontinence care services. He had been turned away from two other home care agencies and was hoping we could send someone ASAP. After our CEO/care manager spoke to this man on the phone for 15 minutes or so, she hung up and immediately remarked what an odd request Joe had — diaper changing with no medical condition? Still, without batting an eyelash, she happily sent two female care managers, both still in training and had been with the company for less than a month, to this man’s home for an assessment. After chatting with him, both care managers agreed that he definitely seemed odd, but was probably relatively harmless. CEO was thrilled to create a new account, and instructed the staffing coordinators to find someone to send to Joe’s studio apartment the next week.
I had a bad feeling about this guy. Anyone who has worked in the health care field for more than 5 seconds knows that requesting incontinence care, without a medical need for such services, is odd. On the day Joe’s services were scheduled to start, I convinced the care manager that she and I should meet the caregiver at Joe’s apartment, and make sure everything seemed…safe and normal. Since CEO and her husband, The Chairman, had departed for Hawaii the day before (although employees were instructed to tell anyone who inquired that they were “at a conference”), we made an executive decision to meet the caregiver at Joe’s house. Long before we arrived, I knew something wasn’t quite right. After a knock on the door of Joe’s apartment, it was opened by a grown man wearing a cloth diaper, complete with baby print animals in pastel colors. From the doorway, we could see a baby blanket spread out on the floor, a stuffed animal, and a baby bottle. That was an odd moment for me, for many reasons, but the most prominent was because what we saw was exactly what I had expected, yet I had been convinced that I had to be wrong.
Elyse, Joes’s caregiver, showed up. After nervously explaining to her that she could leave if she wanted to, we hurried back to the car to determine our plan of action. How could we leave poor 4’10” Elyse here, with this developmentally disabled man who wanted her to play baby with him? But, who had the authority to decide if it was ok to take a caregiver out of a situation like this? CEO couldn’t be bothered to answer her phone from the Four Seasons in Kona, and we had no triage flowchart for emergencies such as this one. Eventually, we decided that Elyse’s safety was more important than the $100 the company would make if we left her there, and that we would take any heat that might come down for canceling a client.
The whole situation was incredibly bizarre, on many levels, but what disturbed me the most wasn’t a grown man asking for a diaper change. What really got to me was that our boss, our leader, did not hesitate for half a second before sending all of us into what could have been a very dangerous situation. From that day in March of 2011 until I finally was laid off in August 2012, I went to work every day knowing our caregivers, office staff, and clients were not valued as human beings. That was the day I found out what it was like to work for people who couldn’t have cared less about the human beings in their office.