During each month of 2022, LeadingAge* is challenging and encouraging its members to share themed stories. For February, the theme is ‘Care is Love’; showcasing the heartfelt commitment of care workers, and how they have become friends and family with those they serve.
What a great way to showcase the special people I work side-by-side with. Caregiving and Hospice are two professions that are deeply personal and impactful. The following stories highlight three amazing women who have dedicated their lives to serving others.
Save You a Seat in Heaven
Andy has been a caregiver for 12 years. Currently, she is the Coordinator of Client Services for EdenCare Personal Assistance Services. When I began developing ideas for this blog, I knew Andy would be the first person to approach. I pulled her away from her short lunch break to pose the question: “Can you tell me about an experience during your profession that always sticks with you?” It didn’t take long for a smile to cross her face as she reflected.
One of Andy’s long-term clients lived with dementia. Even if she didn’t know exactly who she was, she knew that Andy was there to help her. Ever grateful, the client was always sure to thank her, repeatedly telling Andy what a blessing it was for her to be in her life and how when she went to Heaven, she would make sure to tell God all about her. After all the praise and a promise to save a seat, the client would turn to Andy and ask… “What’s your name, again?”
Being the caregiver to a person living with a neurodegenerative disease was a constant learning experience. Andy learned to successfully communicate and recognize when redirection was needed. She learned the importance of habits and how disruptive a break in them could be. She saw progression of disease and the impact her role had in her client remaining independent.
We have no doubt Andy’s seat is being saved!
When a regular person hears the word caregiver, they often think end of life. That simply isn’t the case, as you will see in the next story from Teresa Lopez, EdenCare Manager.
For seven years, Teresa was the caregiver to a man everyone knew as the Jokester. He was always making others laugh, even if it was at his own cost. Eventually, when caregivers spend enough time with someone, their ‘client’ begins to rub off on them. It wasn’t long before Teresa was adding to the antics.
A ‘Women’s-only’ event was on the community calendar, and the Jokester was adamant about participating. He schemed with Teresa and ended up the new owner of a dress, wig, and all the fixin’s. You better believe the Jokester and Teresa showed up in full costume, ready to partake. Flabbergasted guests were too shocked to say no. As Teresa tells it, it was a win-win for all.
Not Just a Hospice Nurse
Rachel Clark is a new member of the EdenHill Team. She is heading EdenHospice, an internal service offered to residents that is readying launch. She shared a powerful and touching story that deals with perceptions of some and realities of others when it comes to hospice care.
In 2006, she experienced one of many firsts. She was giving end-of-life care to a patient and was with them during their final breaths. Shortly afterwards, a family member shooed Rachel and a more seasoned nurse from the scene. Within earshot, the comment was made that she was, “just a hospice nurse.” As if the patient-client relationship meant feelings of grief went out the door. The older nurse looked at Rachel and told her she should get used to it.
Rachel didn’t get used to it. And she learned that not all experiences would turn out to be this way. Many of her patients and their loved ones saw her as a part of the family, and still do. She’s been the first call when a former client passes. She’s attended parties and weddings as a guest of the family. She never has, and never will be just another hospice nurse.
Think About It
Who do you see every week on a regular basis? Your family and friends may come to mind. When someone takes on the responsibility of caring for others, they are right there with them every week, sometimes every day. They develop deep relationships with those they care for and their loved ones. From the experience of the three women above, its inescapable. And that’s okay.
*LeadingAge is an advocacy group that represents 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers and mission-minded organizations.