Position Summary: The Caregiver cares for the patient’s medical, physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social emotional, financial, organizational and dietary needs.
Reporting to: This position reports to the patient, medical staff, the patient’s mother, other family members, friends, acquaintances, and the Lord.
- Be or become an expert on the patient’s illness. This includes, but is not limited to: listening to, taking notes on, and comprehending all information given during appointments with specialists, asking insightful follow-up questions, and doing independent research on the topic, including weeding out what is an ad, a scam, inaccurate, not applicable, or outdated.
- Stay up to date on breaking new research on the illness and/or any other illness that may, in some way, relate to this illness. This includes, but is not limited to staying abreast of all new publications and research in the field of medicine, cancer research, homeopathy, and anything else new that may have a connection of any kind to this illness.
- Graciously accept and assess the validity of: stories (i.e., anything that begins with, “I once knew someone…”), links to buy probiotics in bulk, jugs of water purified to have the perfect pH level, leaves from the Holy Land, names of better doctors, documentaries on Veganism, articles on the benefits of walking barefoot in the grass, TED talks on the power of positivity, names of acupuncturists, marijuana in various forms, treadmills, yoga practices, newspaper clippings of someone else who was once sick and got better, to name a few.
With each submission, go through the following steps:
- weigh its validity vs. the treatment plans of the specialists the patient is currently seeing
- wonder if the doctors have narrow-mindedly gotten it all wrong and have brainwashed you and the patient
- consider dumping the doctors and “going East”
- give up sugar for an hour to help clear your mind and your toxins as you think it over
- decide to stick with the specialists
- eat a sundae from Culvers
- Assist patient with daily needs. This may include, but is not limited to: bathing, dressing, feeding, wound changes, laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and dispensing medications.
- Attend doctor’s appointments and medical procedures:
- Get the patient to the correct doctor at the correct time with the correct paperwork and correct amount of food, drink, or medications in or out of the patient’s system.
- Bring/provide snacks, beverages, etc. for the duration of the appointment, both for the patient and yourself. Keep in mind the patient’s current dietary restrictions and preferences and that most appointments will last twice as long as expected.
- Bring any items the patient may need before, during, or after the procedure, i.e., earbuds, phone chargers, medications, insurance cards, etc.
- Watch every member of the medical team to check for accuracy, precision, and sterile practices.
- Speak up when necessary. Please note: speak up enough to get your point across, but not so much that providers will react negatively to the patient.
- Take notes.
- Ask questions.
- Fill in details that patient may have left out.
- Listen to and take notes on after-care instructions.
- Record phone numbers for after-hours emergencies. Please note: there is no need to write down phone numbers for daytime emergencies, as these never occur.
- Set up next appointments.
- Assess unexpected symptoms, such as fevers, rashes, pain, confusion, etc., to determine what steps need to be taken, i.e. ambulance, ER visit, call to clinic, etc.
- Create and maintain impeccable records of appointments, insurance, disability paperwork, contact information for medical team, medication inserts listing potential side effects, receipts potentially usable for tax purposes, medical research, etc.
- Order, organize, dispense, and fight with insurance companies over medical supplies and prescriptions. This task occurs at least monthly. All battles fought the month before are considered null and void and will be asked to be fought again with each new month.
- Build strong knowledge of and relationships with the health insurance field. You will have daily contact with billing companies, medical supply companies, bill collectors, etc. It is important to research each piece of mail received, as most of them are faulty, but not obviously so. Failure to do so in a timely manner will promote additional pieces of mail from bill collection agencies. Please note that this research takes time, patience, and epic battles with a flawed system. Within in this role you may decide, after doing a thorough cost-benefit analysis, that it is easier to pay the bill, however faulty, than to continue to fight the system.
- Know when and how often to ask for help with meals, groceries, playdates for children in the home, etc. Ask for help only so often so as not to burn out friends and family. Ask carefully, sounding desperate enough to not be able to fetch your own groceries, but not so desperate that if you answer the door with a shirt that is half clean the gift giver will be confused as to why they are there. Make requests specific so that you don’t end up with 14 chicken casseroles or playdates for your child with strangers. Keep in mind that many of these tasks will come with interaction with well-meaning humans who often don’t know what to say. Before asking, weigh the benefit of the help against the time spent with humans.
- Create an organizational system for the above-mentioned meals, groceries, and playdates. This is important to ensure that you don’t have tacos dropped off three nights in a row, ice cream treats left on your back step that go undiscovered for days, and your child doesn’t get dropped off in her bathing suit for a playdate to the theater.
- Update family and friends on latest information, providing them with enough information so they don’t worry, but not so many details that they have something to worry about. You will need to do so in an absolutely fair way, telling people the same information and in an unwritten but understood order of importance, keeping in mind which modes of communication are acceptable for which types of news.
- Actively participate in social media pages related to the illness. This will help maintain a constant level of panic and despair as you watch others with the same diagnosis struggle in ways you didn’t realize were possible.
- Fundraise for a cure. Organize bake sales, send Christmas letters, and create inspirational videos to raise money, not for your own struggling family, but so that researchers can work to find a cure for this disease. It may seem as if you already have a full plate, but essentially you need to do this if you want your patient to survive.
- Join the hospital advisory board and attend monthly meetings. This is an important part of this role as it gives you practice driving to and from the hospital as well as a monthly opportunity to air the one or two grievances you may have encountered in your time as a caregiver.
- Strong capacity to be flexible and adaptable to varied and constantly changing circumstances, paired with a conscientious commitment to keep the patient alive.
- Exceptional interpersonal skills for effectively communicating and problem-solving with medical staff, family and friends, insurance collectors, nosy neighbors, and well-meaning helpers.
- Strong self-initiative and independent follow-through.
- Extraordinary capacity to hold emotions in check throughout difficult procedures, hospital stays, and awkward interactions.
- Advanced level of multi-tasking.
- Proven ability to successfully manage all of the tasks above with little to no preparation, training, sleep, or nourishment.
- Detail oriented
- Willingness to learn
- Technologically literate with strong computer skills, including comfortable use of email, WebMD, MyChart, multiple bill pay sites, blogs, social media platforms, etc.
PREFERRED DEGREES/CERTIFICATIONS include, but are not limited to:
- Licensed Social Worker
- Healing Touch Practitioner
- Essential Oil Consultant
- Ear/Nose/Throat Specialist
- Physical Therapist
- Personal Trainer
- Wound Care Specialist
- Insurance Specialist
- Life Coach
- Professional Organizer
- Zen Master
- Public Relations Guru
*Please note: the ideal candidate for this position would have not one, but all of the above certifications.
Hours: This is a 24 hour/day, 7 days/week position.
You may sleep while on the job with the understanding that:
- you will do so only if the patient is asleep
- you will remain alert to the patient’s needs throughout the night
- you must be ready to perform any of the above listed duties at any moment.
Please note that this position may sometimes require you to sleep at the hospital. This requires:
- using the restroom down the hall to brush your teeth and do your business so as not to contaminate the bathroom in the patient’s room
- waking up each time the door opens, ready to perform duties as required
- not showering
- not going home
- not taking a break
Holding concurrent positions: It is expected that those who hold this position will concurrently hold other positions, many of which may be full time, such as Parent and/or Breadwinner.
Vacation: This position allows for two types of vacations:
- You may go on vacation with the patient. In this case you will continue to perform all of the duties listed above, including addition duties related to the trip, which include, but are not limited to: renting an electronic scooter, standing in line for a disability pass, hunting down a wheelchair, sharing notes from doctors when questioned by security about liquid formula in a carryon, carrying and distributing hand sanitizer at all times, making real-time decisions regarding when it would be in the patient’s best interest to cut the vacation short.
- You may go on vacation without the patient. In this case you must set up back up care for the entire time you are gone. To do so, find someone with the above listed qualifications, with whom the patient is comfortable, who is available and willing to perform these tasks at this level of compensation. Please note: while gone you must be reachable by phone at all times so that you can be notified when the requisite disaster occurs.
COMPENSATION: There is no monetary compensation for this position. You will, however, receive:
- the joy and satisfaction of knowing you are helping your loved one
- an honorary medical degree (that no one acknowledges)
- pitying looks and awkward questions from co-workers and acquaintances
- endless cups of free coffee, Lipton tea, and stale graham crackers
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: This position is on an ongoing contract, renewed automatically each year, until the time of the patient’s death. At that point, please see position description for Widow/er.
Serious illnesses do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, or age.
Allison Breininger has been caregiver to her husband, Sean, since 2011, when he was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia. High school sweethearts, the two had been married for 9 years at the time of diagnosis, and had brought their toddler, Maya, home from Haiti, just one year earlier. Allison has been by Sean’s side through a bone marrow transplant, six different types of cancer, a hip replacement, and more and more and more. She writes honestly and openly about the challenges and realities of being a caregiver at her site thenegativespace.life.