For some time now, we have been attempting to increase productivity in the office by, among other things, phasing into a paperless environment. Less-paper environment may actually be more accurate since eliminating it completely may not be a practical nor achievable goal anyway. And quite unnecessary, if you ask Mrs V who, claiming that she will not have a phone that will outsmart her, is quite able to lead a harmonious existence with an old flipper. Thank you very much.
Gently but unflaggingly rejecting the use of all the online resources (for assignment management, training, reporting, etc) that we made available to help our caregivers become more productive, Mrs V will end her live-in shift every Tuesday at 9 in the morning, she will drive 35 minutes to our office where she will tell a story to all who want to hear it, share with everyone what has become her trademark sweet laughter, use the restroom, and drive home an additional 90 minutes in the opposite direction, not before handing several sheets of tightly hand written notes on her assignment. Every week, like clockwork.
Mrs V’s notes are beautifully written and colored with detail: “Staff (herself) cooked 3 Bacon, 3 Eggs, 1 HB & 1 Biscuit & client ate all but ½ HB and ¼ biscuit, and no preserves and took AM meds.” Another line: “Client up once during night 1:45 to 2:01. Client asked staff to wake her in the morning & staff up at 7 & woke client 7:30 a.m. & fixed her coffee. Client seems content at 8 a.m.” Pages and pages of pure caregiver tenderness that would never even slightly suggest the hardships that Mrs V endured in her life.
The granddaughter of a rather short (4’10”) but strong-willed Cherokee woman, Mrs V started making biscuits to sell when she was 5 after her mom gave her and her little brother away to follow an oilman. Upon her mom’s death, Mrs V started helping raise her six siblings before she was 12. By the time she was 23 she had married six times, twice with the alcoholic father of her only son. “I kept looking for love” she said calmly when I asked why.
Further probed about the secret to her admirable spirit, her answer surprised me for her conviction: “A forgiving heart.” No time for a moment of self-pity in Mrs V’s life. With over 40 years as a caregiver, she seems to have found in caring for others the love she so much longed for. And it shows. “I just have a big heart” she says, adding “I’m just an old country girl, I don’t know how to explain it. I love people and I love life. And I will work until the Lord tells me it is time to go back home.”
I was left wondering what the value of productivity is after all, and why should we want more of it all the time.
Eduardo Berdegué owns Divine Home Care Services, an independent home care agency serving the elderly in Texas. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org