It’s a scary thing leaving your vulnerable loved one in the hands of others. We have all seen those stories in the news. It sure leaves a terrible fear in my stomach when I think about it.
But being there every day, day after day to make sure things are done right isn’t sustainable is it. So what can you do?
My son now lives independently from me. In order to do that I needed to have a reliable team of staff that I trusted. I also needed to put in place some processes that enabled me to pick up anything that wasn’t working and prevent bad stuff from happening. I also wanted to know that Isaac was achieving his goals.
Here are the things I put in place…….
For my son to live independently, I needed a team of well trained and reliable staff. That’s why I decided to directly employ.
Agencies just didn’t make the grade. They would send unsuitable people, who would stay a few months and move on.
Support worker matching platforms didn’t do much better. They seem to actively encourage staff to just “work when they want to” and were full of university students who would suddenly become unavailable when their time tables changed.
Directly employing meant I could offer people a “proper job” so I attracted people who wanted to stay the long term. You can read about some of the methods I used to recruit these staff here.
Good training in how my son likes to be supported
While a support worker may come with qualifications and experience they still didn’t know my son. So it was very important to provide them with detailed training in how my son liked to be supported.
I worked with others including family, friends and paid supports to pull together some training that included video, role play, buddy shifts and more to make sure the staff understood and were able to provide the right kind of support. You can read more about training your team here.
I gave the staff my trust – I didn’t wait for them to earn it – because you know what, they will never be perfect. But I didn’t give it willy nilly of course. I gave my trust to specific staff to do specific things and trust has built more and more over time. But the point is you need to give it as much as you can. Being constantly suspicious leads to micromanagement and dependence on you. Read more about trust here.
While most people are going to want to do the right thing most of the time, its important to have some supervision and accountability built in to your team. Working alone without supervision can lead to a lack of motivation for staff and they can feel unsupported too. I have a team leader who spends an hour or two with each support worker to supervise their work and mentor them.
The team and I also identify what are the things that could go wrong and put in a plan to make sure these things are prevented or managed. We regularly review these risks to make sure our plans are working and if not, improve on them.
A Compliance Calendar
This is a calendar of activities that must be done to manage risks and fulfil our legal obligations. Things like renewing our insurance, doing a health and safety check of the house and servicing the car. I monitor the calendar to make sure there are no overdue activities.
Collaboration and communication tools
Clear communication of the right information at the right time to the right people has been crucial to providing good support to my son. Staff need to know things like the weekly schedule and be informed of any changes to it. They need to let the next staff member on the following shift know about anything that didn’t get done so that it could be followed up. They needed to be able to refer to any training guides if they were to support my son in any new activities they had never supported him in like swimming. I needed to see what kind of a day my son and had and if there had been any behaviours that might indicate he was upset about something.
We’ve been using and online tool called Podio to capture all this kind of information through shift reports, training guides, policies, calendars and more. We’ve also been using What’s app messaging tool to communicate any last minute changes. You can read more about Podio here.
I’ve worked out the key statistics that will tell me if all is well in Isaac’s world. The things I want to know are:
Is he sleeping well?
Is he maintaining a good weight?
Is he in a good mood most of the time?
Is he making progress towards his goals?
Has he been spending time with friends?
I get the staff to collect data using our team collaboration tool called Podio and the team leader makes a summary of the average numbers so that I know all is well. You can read more about Podio here.
So for example if Isaac is getting less than an average of 8 hours sleep each month, then I know he isn’t well and we need to investigate.
After collecting data for a month through the shift reports in Podio, I get the team leader to give me a report that shows me how we are tracking. It includes:
How we are tracking on my son’s goals
The top five risks and if we are managing them well or not
The monthly data about that helps me track the key things I want to know about.
Visits from Friends
Isaac’s friends and microboard members check in on him from time to time and ask how he is doing. It’s their love that brings Isaac’s safety to another level. Having them has given him, me and the rest of his family the confidence that should anything not be quite right, they will pick it up, even if I’m not around. So having a circle of support gives him that extra bit of safety. You can read more about circles of support here.