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West Region CAREGiver of the Year Mei Newmann Treats Every Client as an Individual
Mei Newmann loves her neighbor. Her motivation is nothing less than doing the best job she can for clients, watching their faces light up when she arrives and finding ways to enjoy their company. She’s also a lifelong learner who provides competent, compassionate care.
“It’s wonderful to get up in the morning and have a purpose. And, when I know I’m going to help someone, as well as take classes to be better at caregiving, it’s just great. It’s the learning factor. It’s so important to know more because there are so many people who need help and everyone is so different, so interesting. I like to learn something new every day.”
The help Mei gives keeps her among the top most-requested CAREGivers at Kim and Bill Dahlquist’s Denver South Home Instead Senior Care© franchise office. Mei joined Bill 11 years ago, just after he started the franchise and is the second most tenured of all the CAREGivers at the office. She heard about his business while she was working in activities at a small, assisted living community. Once Mei met Bill, she never considered working for anyone else. “It just seemed like Home Instead was always a little better,” she said.
Mei said she accepted the West Region CAREGiver of the Year award on behalf of her fellow CAREGivers. “I want to use this opportunity to recognize all West Region CAREGivers,” she said. “I happened to be selected, but we all represent CAREGiver excellence.”
Mei takes her work personally. Henrietta, a client who lives at a facility, would not eat because she dislikes the food served there. To feed Henrietta’s body and spirit, Mei packed a special lunch of some of her favorites. Mei calls preparing the food “a treat for me. I get to have lunch with her. I know she’s going to love it. She’s been losing weight, but she’s just going to love this.”
Besides encouraging Henrietta to eat, Mei motivates her to attend physical therapy twice a day, care she requires following a broken shoulder. Henrietta’s family believes their mother keeps therapy appointments because Mei will attend them with her.
“My brother and I realized how valuable Mei is to all of us,” Henrietta’s daughter wrote. “Mei is Mom’s companion, advocate and was here during the vacation periods for my brother and me. The best way to describe Mei is as a close friend.”
“Friend” is exactly how Mei describes herself. When she is with a client, she is completely present to that person. Her favorite caregiving moment is the one she is experiencing right now. Her favorite, most memorable client is the one she is with now. She lives for the moment.
Mei treats every client as an individual, as her Home Instead co-workers say, she “customizes.” Nothing pleases her more than getting to know what is different about a client and the ways she and the client are similar. “I love the individuality of each client. This one is special in this way. That one is special in another way. It’s a bond, and they feel it. You know when there is a trust. It goes so much smoother after that point. It’s just a joy being with clients,” Mei said.
Hailing from Hawaii, Mei has lived in Aurora for 14 years. She keeps her native culture alive by teaching Hawaiian dance at the Aurora Center for Active Adults, volunteering with the Polynesian Pacifica Foundation and playing with a Polynesian band. Music was Mei’s first career, and she often plays her six-string ukulele for clients. She can be found staging performances at various area senior facilities. Her son, who still lives in Hawaii, visits frequently. She was widowed many years ago when her husband passed away from a heart attack.
Mei recently completed her Home Instead annual, required training two months early and will earn a 32 credit hour voluntary certificate in dementia care training from the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She will incorporate this knowledge to help serve her clients, people she describes as “beautiful,” “the most interesting person,” and “a pleasure.”
“Mei Newmann stands out as a CAREGiver and a wonderful human being because of her easy grace and charm and her infectious joy of life,” said Mary Coit, Staff Supervisor at Denver South.
Mei’s advice is to forget about yourself and simply give. “Learn about the client. Get to know and find out about her,” she said. “You really have to give a lot of yourself to the caregiving. And, that means being unselfish and really interested in your clients. It’s letting them get to know you, and you, of course, knowing the client.”
Mei forgets about herself completely, allowing her to focus on the client’s needs. She provides the only source of companionship for a reclusive client with dementia, who surprises Mei by remembering her name. “She’s beginning to trust me and is actually happy now when I am there. I set everything else aside. She likes Dr Pepper, so we share one. We sit and we visit,” Mei said. “She doesn’t get that with anyone else. It’s a nice thing for her and a nice thing for me. She feels safe with me.”
Mei admits her caregiving skills are a natural part of her, just like her Polynesian heritage, for which she is grateful. Also, she said, she puts her heart and soul into everything she does.