My mom wants her life back and is thinking of hiring a virtual assistant for my uncle who has Parkinson's. Tips and pitfalls for hiring a VA to make scheduled calls to my uncle?
posted by zeek321 to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is long. My uncle has Parkinson's and some additional cognitive issues. His *retrospective* memory is fine to the millisecond and into the past: he can lucidly, humorously, and appropriately banter in real-time and continue conversations from the day before. He's in there. (He is/was a smart guy who ran his own business.)
But, right now, he has almost no prospective memory or goal-directed behavior. He can't plan and anticipate more than about 30-45 minutes into the future. And, unfortunately, he has incomplete awareness that he's impaired in this way.
Currently, we have him in an apartment about 10 minutes away from us. My mom has some groceries delivered and also does shopping for him once a week. She also has a cleaning service in once per week. She also calls twice a day to remind him to take his medication, and she comes over a few times a week to throw in laundry, run the dishwasher, and drive him to and from the health club for classes. Before my mom arrives, she calls him 1.5, 1, and 0.5 hours in advance, to prompt him to get up, get dressed, and be ready to go. (He knows where he's going and why he's going, and he's up for it, he just can't plan to make it happen. He lives in the now.)
My mom would ideally like to cut back to one or two social calls a day, one social visit on the weekend, and medical stuff. She'd like to cut back as much as possible on all non-social and non-medical stuff.
So that means we'd like to be responsible for someone (a virtual assistant?) who would stage wake up/get ready calls to my uncle and to coordinate in real time between my uncle and a taxi service. My mom would still be doing scheduling, asynchronous stuff, and ad hoc stuff, but she wants back her large blocks of time during the work day.
We are thinking of going the virtual assistant route because he refuses in-house help. We do know there are services (both private and state) where someone would hang out in the home and even drive him around. But, he doesn't think he needs it and it makes him very uncomfortable. The last one mentioned to him that she did hospice work and it really made him upset and angry. (He does fine with women instructors at the health club and does best with "dudebro" physical therapists and trainers.) As far as we can tell, he's "content" to putter around in his apartment, eat, listen to the radio, watch TV. He may or may not spend time on the computer and even walk over to Starbucks. I'm not sure about the last part. He thinks he's functional, and he is. But anything requiring the slightest bit of planning/sequential behavior doesn't happen.
He *is* seeing a therapist. (To the degree he grasps his situation, of course he's frustrated, embarrassed, and depressed.) And, eventually, he'll *need* more assistance, and we're prepared to help him accept that when the time comes. But, right now, we think we can get by with logistics. We've been having trouble finding an agency where they'd be willing to *just* do driving: their business model is that they want to be in the home for X hours per week. And the places that *just* do driving can't or won't stage phone calls to him, so there's still a coordination problem.
By some miracle we do have some money to throw at this problem, ~$1000/month give or take, though the less, the better:
1. Is a virtual assistant the right way to go? We would provide the VA with a schedule of when to make brief calls to my uncle and when to coordinate between my uncle and a normal taxi. We don't *think* there'd be any judgment calls the VA would have to make, and he or she'd be able to touch base with us any time if needed. We *do* need a friendly voice with a name who could hit the right emotional note: friendly (even banter-y?), no-nonsense, not-embarrassing, warm but professional.
2. Would a VA be willing to do this, and is the applied emotional intelligence a reasonable expectation? Like, would someone be game? I'm imagining like a smart, emotionally intelligent independent contractor with a great phone voice (either USA-based or really culturally savvy), who will take the time (who we'll pay to take the time) to understand the personality situation.*
*Now that I'm thinking about it are there case workers(?), social workers(?) who would be more appropriate for this? Could we afford them? Could we "customize" what they'd do?
3. How would we titrate/frame responsibilities to make this attractive to a high-quality VA? Would they want more responsibilities? How many "hours" should we be prepared to pay per week to hit the right quality/cost balance? I'm guesstimating that this would be a lot of fragmented time which we could maybe pad out (6-12 hrs/wk?) because it's time-bound and can't be batched.
Bottom line, my mom would like to outsource non-social and non-medical care stuff as much as possible without it being more money, time, and trouble than it's worth. How do we find savvy people and pay them fairly? I am open to my premises being questioned or "being crazy" callouts. We're emotionally close to the situation. Thank you.