Esther SmithOne of the toughest things I have recently had to deal with is as a person who has low vision is having someone come into my home to help me with my daily activities.

Some things to consider:

  • Privacy. Lack of privacy is an issue in many home situations including managing my mail, my bills, dressing and bathing, and even phone calls. Since I have been totally independent all of my life, these are difficult issues to resolve in my own mind. Also, there are the safety concerns like identity theft to be aware of.
  • Finding things in my own home. When I began to have vision problems almost 20 years ago, I figured out how to set up my kitchen, laundry, closet, home office, and other areas of my home so that I could find things easily. I learned to always put things back in the same place and I marked my appliances, TV remote, and other items I used every day so that I could easily use them.
  • Shopping. I have to admit I am set in my ways and there are certain foods that I prefer over others. So it is frustrating when someone else shops and purchases what they think I should have or purchases the wrong item.
  • Security of valuables. I am concerned about my valuables such as jewelry and important papers.
  • Driving. I own a car but, of course, cannot drive it. I am concerned about grocery shopping, medical transportation, and other needs.

Ten Suggested Solutions

  1. Now that there is someone else in my home on a daily basis, my organizational systems are hard to keep in place. Having learned the “hard” way, I have some suggestions to offer. Write out your “rules of the house” including how you have organized items to be able to find them; how you mark your groceries, appliances; placement of furniture to help you with navigation around your home and to prevent falls .
  2. Make sure you hire the right person to fit your needs. Going through an agency that does background checks may be costly but it is worth the peace of mind to take this precaution. You may also want to check into the Federal Bonding Program available for some workers. If someone will be driving your car, you will need to have their driver’s record checked as well and inform your insurance company.
  3. Interview candidates yourself. You may want to have a family member sit in on the interviews, but is important to make sure that you can communicate well and get along with a person who is going to be in and out of your house on a regular basis.
  4. During the interview, explain your special needs and your preferences for keeping the household organized so that you can function well and safely in your own home.
  5. Also, during the interview, share your “rules of the house.” Go over in detail what you have done to make your house accessible, and state your expectation that the person you hire will keep it that way.
  6. Set up a probationary period so that you can try out the person. Do not give out keys to your home to someone who is still on probation with you.
  7. If for some reason you have to let the person go, change the locks to your home immediately.
  8. If you have a debit card, do not give out the code. If something happens with your bank account, the bank will hold you responsible if you have shared your access code. You can request a second card for your employee that will have a different code and can be cancelled with one phone call.
  9. Be sure to keep valuables, jewelry, and other important items in a home safe or bank lockbox. Do not share the combination to the safe or key to your lockbox. A bank lockbox, although not immediately accessible, may be the safest solution since banks have security measures in place to prevent unlawful entry.
  10. The privacy issue is one of the hardest to resolve. I find that using a call button is an easy way to ask for help and helps me with controlling my privacy. However, a simple system of setting times or situations for “check-ups” can work as well. For example,checking if you normally get up at 8:00 a.m. and are not up by 8:15 a.m.

Overall, the biggest consideration is the development of trust. That is not something that can be developed over night and needs to be discussed in detail with whomever you hire. Trust goes to all facets of your life and can be undermined easily with misunderstandings. So, make sure that you and the person you choose can and do talk to each other, as you would do in any important relationship.