When I was hired to be a caregiver for elderly people, the boss told me it would not be TOO different from my experiences caregiving for children (mother, daycare worker). In my experience with the job so far, it is VERY VERY DIFFERENT. For one thing, I get THANKED.
The first time it happened, I thought it was a fluke. Like, “Oh, this particular elderly person is extremely conscientious about politeness, and how kind of her to unnecessarily thank me!” But it has happened now with two additional clients—and that’s out of four clients total, and the fourth one is not in a state of being able to thank.
Also, sometimes there are family members around, and THEY will thank. Sometimes it’s casual, as part of a departure: “Okay, thanks, bye!” Even if we don’t count those, there are other times it is more intense: “Thank you. Thank you for everything you’re doing for us.” “We really appreciate this. Thank you.”
Those of you who said this job could be a good stretching experience even if it didn’t pan out career-wise: that has been a very comforting thought. When it is time to figure out dinner and I am realizing as I open a Surprise Refrigerator how much I rely on my own recipes and familiar staples and the knowledge of my own pantry supplies and cupboard contents, I think to myself, “This would be an excellent assignment if I were taking a class on being more flexible and thinking on my feet. In fact, this would make a good game show.” And I am already getting better at it: instead of pure rising panic, I think, “Okay! *clap clap* Let’s see what we can do!”
I am also learning to think things such as “If this one meal is not great, or not what she likes to eat, or not cooked the way she likes it, or not seasoned the way she’d prefer, or not nutritionally ideal—it will nevertheless be okay, and it will be balanced by all the other meals that are cooked by all the other caregivers.”
I am also carrying my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook in my work bag. I’ve had this cookbook since I was in college, and it is like a security blanket. It’s the kind of cookbook that will even tell you how to boil an egg, or how to bake a potato. It’s surprising how many cooking things I’ve never done: I’ve never baked a sweet potato, I’ve never taken rib meat off the bones, I’ve never made corned beef hash, I’ve never cooked a chicken thigh, I’ve never worked with liverwurst, I’ve never worked with horseradish, I’ve never made franks-and-beans. It’s not that I can barely boil water or whatever: I can cook. It’s just that there is a large circle of foods and food processes I’m familiar with, and there is also a large circle of foods and food processes I’m NOT familiar with. Another cook in my kitchen might be saying she’d never made baked macaroni and cheese, never made shredded crockpot chicken, never worked with sriracha sauce, never used ground turkey, never made couscous, never made cinnamon rolls, never made granola, never used a rice steamer, etc.