Dear Family Resource,
My parents are both in their mid-80’s and over the last two years have really slowed down. My dad no longer drives and my mom is forgetful and needs help with grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry. It’s taken a year to convince them, but they’ve both agreed to hire someone to help them for a few hours every week. The problem is my parents say they don’t want someone whose first language isn’t English because they will have trouble understanding the helper if she (or he) has a strong accent. They really need the help but I don’t know anything about home care agencies or what is ok to ask for and what is not ok.
Embarrassed For My Parents

Dear Embarrassed For My Parents,
Don’t be. Your parents are not the first to make this kind of request. Every once in awhile, we hear from adult children that their parents do not want a caregiver with a strong accent. Most often it’s a legitimate concern that the older adult, with possible hearing difficulties, won’t be able to understand their caregiver. Other times it is code that the adult child is worried their parents will be uncomfortable with a person of color or a person from another country. What I have found is that it is not really the color of someone’s skin or even that English is not a caregiver’s first language, rather the fear of having a stranger in their home.

We know it is difficult for some folks to admit they need help and disconcerting to have a stranger come into their home. Caregiving ― both giving and receiving ― can be a very personal and intimate experience. Our staff emphasizes making a good match between the client and the caregiver, and that means making a match in which the client both understands and feels understood by the caregiver.

Our caregivers are from all over the world. We put each applicant through a thorough comprehensive screening process including written and verbal testing. Demonstrating fluency in spoken and written English is a requirement.

We have been doing business as a home care agency for a long time and are pretty good at matching clients and caregivers regardless of where the caregiver is from. If your parents were to come to us as possible clients, the first thing we’d do is speak with them about their needs, routines, likes, and dislikes. While we talk we’ll be getting a sense of their personalities and styles which helps when making a match. After the match is made, your parents will have the opportunity to meet their caregiver prior to the start of care.

If we’ve done our job right, concerns about having a stranger in the home usually aren’t an issue. But if your parents are unhappy for any reason, we will remove the caregiver and try again. We do, on very rare occasions have a client who refuses to have a person of color or a “foreigner” in their home, or is overly rude or abusive to a caregiver. Unfortunately, we cannot provide services to a family in these cases.

We want each client to feel that they’re getting what they need, and we will keep at it until the match is right! It’s the part of our job most of us here in the office find the most rewarding!

~ Family Resource

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