Nancy Crudale said, "I was just being me," in response to a poignant note her Home Instead Senior Care® office had received from the family of a late client. In part, the note read, "Thanks for giving our loved one special treatment that allowed her as much independence as possible. The care was something special."
Nancy, a humble person, felt she did what she would do to help anyone. Nancy's standard operating procedure as a CAREGiver is "to go above and beyond the call of duty," and she's just that kind of person. That is why Nancy has been honored as CAREGiver of the Year for Home Instead Senior Care® of Rhode Island.
Reacting to the complimentary note, Nancy said: "It feels good to know the care wasn't in vain. We followed the client from her home to assisted living to a nursing home to a memory facility. Wherever she went, we went. She was never alone. We went to the hospital with her. I still think about my clients who have passed, and it affects me because I feel as if they were like family."
The degree of assignment difficulty and the odd-hour shifts do not deter Nancy – in fact it seems the bigger the challenge, the better. One of Nancy's current clients has dementia and mobility difficulties, and Nancy has spent overnight hours with her since March. Because of her client's behavior and fall-risk tendencies, catching even a wink of sleep is out of the question. "She is up a lot, so I am awake the whole night to ensure her safety," Nancy said. "She can be difficult for some people because she is independent and very particular in what she wants."
The client has an obsessive compulsive disorder, and she produced a bedtime routine that includes three to four pages of instructions, which include jewelry-removal protocol to a specific way of fluffing pillows. A number of people who have tried to help the 90-something senior were unable to handle the constant demands.
But Nancy is the perfect person to serve this client, and she uses her sense of humor to deal with situations and defuse looming difficulties. Nancy said: "Her routine is OK with me. Sometimes we just chat a little or maybe I won't talk at all, depending on her emotional state at the time. She carries on a conversation and then loses track of her train of thought. Sometimes she just points to what she wants.
"She tries to make an effort to do everything to help herself. I want to bridge what she can do with what she can't, and then provide the warmth and positive attitude that makes her feel good. If I can make somebody's life easier for the day or even a minute, it makes my day. It could even be the client's family, giving them a sense of security and trust."
Franchise Chief Operating Officer Valerie Topp painted an even more detailed picture of Nancy in action: "We had started working with this very challenging client who has severe dementia, and we started service when she had pneumonia. The second day we were with her, the client was admitted to the hospital and her behavior escalated. Nancy was the calm, level-headed person who could so compassionately approach this client, calm her and help the hospital staff who so desperately needed to provide her care.
"To this day," Valerie added, "Nancy continues to be one of her overnight staff, and she has developed a wonderful relationship with this client. Without CAREGivers like Nancy, our office could not continue to take these challenging clients. What I love most about Nancy is her ability to smile even when challenged. Knowing I have her on my side makes me smile, too."
Valerie, who has observed Nancy's outstanding care for her clients since the CAREGiver joined the franchise in December 2011, said: "Having worked with Nancy for nearly four years, I can tell you whenever she has been asked to cover a client on short notice, to introduce a new CAREGiver to a new client, or to work with a challenging client, she always says an emphatic 'Yes,' and you can hear her smile over the phone."
Franchise President Gary Leiter could not agree more. "While speaking in support of Nancy Crudale as our Caregiver of the Year, I'd like to point out that Nancy has been an exemplary CAREGiver during her entire time with us. This is not just a one-year deal. I have been so impressed with Nancy that I had her assist my wife for a while," Gary explained.
"I remember my wife asking me, 'How do you ever find such wonderful people to work for you?' After Nancy's turn to be with her, my wife said, 'While I love the other CAREGivers, Nancy was just so special. Everyone who has helped me has been so nice, with Nancy leading the way.' I am so glad we have Nancy on our CAREGiver staff."
Franchise Engagement Coordinator Barbara Remington noted that Nancy was honored as CAREGiver of the Month in January 2013 and July 2014. "Nancy has received a multitude of kudos for filling in on short notice or even extra-short notice," Barbara said, summarizing from the superlatives that have overflowed Nancy's file. "Nancy is definitely a CAREGiver who exemplifies the core values of Home Instead Senior Care every moment she is with a client."
Franchise Staff Coordinator Donna Henry added: "Nancy is the most compassionate, caring person I have ever met. She goes above and beyond, not only for her regular clients but all of our clients, the office staff and her fellow CAREGivers. She will go anywhere, anytime, to help someone. She just does it all."
Asked what makes a good CAREGiver, Nancy said: "Remaining calm, that's big. Maintaining the client's independence is also a big thing with me. The clients and I work together, and I let them do their things as long as they are safe. The Home Instead training is good, and they touched on everything, but intuition plays a big part in senior care. You are successful if you learn how to read clients and relate to them."
Challenges and late call-ins are among the hurdles Nancy has impressively handled. She also enjoys the fruits of cultivating relationships with clients and their families. "I've been assisting a 92-year-old client for more than three years," Nancy said. "We clicked, and we do a lot of things together. We finish each other's sentences.
"We have our laugh of the day. I try to lighten my client's day, no matter who the client is. One client lives in an apartment and jokingly calls it 'God's waiting room.' She lives in a place that has 24 apartments total, and everybody watches out for each other, so it is heart-warming and an honor to be there. There is also a feeling of accomplishment: One client and I worked on a jigsaw puzzle, and we framed and displayed it when we finished."
There also is the serious side of care that provides fulfillment and memories. "I brought a frail client to visit her husband in a nursing home. She had not seen him for three or four months. It was an emotional moment. He later died, but every day when he was still alive, I would take my client to see him if it was possible," Nancy said. "They were married 65 years."
When one door closed on Nancy's previous productive work career, little did she know that another one would open. She saw her job at an animal hospital end after more than 30 years because the business shut its doors. "When that happened, I was out of a job. I said to myself, 'What will I do?' I always liked seniors. I must have seen 50,000 places when I did an online search for senior care," Nancy recalled. "For some reason, I picked Home Instead, wrote down the address and drove there. I did not know what kind of chance I'd have, but they hired me on the spot. They told me, 'You are just what we're looking for.' It was my lucky day."
Nancy then explained how "lucky" she feels. "Really, I have had no problems with any clients. I love their history and family stories. As a fill-in, I was once told about a challenging client. But I went into the home and did fine with her. I had to ask someone in the office, 'Are you sure this was the difficult one?' Every matchup with a client has been good, but someone in the office said: "Of course the matchups for you are good because you are always patient with the clients. You make things work out.' Those words made me feel good.
"I receive more benefit from my job in an emotional way than my clients receive. I am quite happy and look forward to going to work each day. One friend noticed my attitude day after day and remarked that few people feel that way about their jobs."
Nancy's strongly positive attitude and helpful ways have proved to be influential. Chief Operating Officer Valerie explained: "The granddaughter of a client who had passed away was so impressed with Nancy and the CAREGivers who took care of her 'Nana' that she decided to become a CAREGiver herself, and just recently 'joined the CAREGiver Club' with our franchise." Finishing the story of incredible karma, Nancy said: "I could not recall having been in contact with her when I was taking care of her grandmother, so I was surprised to hear her story at our recent franchise open house after meeting her for the first time. Not only that, but as one of the franchise's ambassadors, I had the pleasure of introducing her to a new client recently. I never knew I was an inspiration to anyone, so I thought that was pretty neat!"
The choice for the franchise's highest CAREGiver honor seemed easy. "I was so happy to recommend Nancy Crudale for CAREGiver of the Year and nominate her for CAREGiver of the Year for our region. When we speak of someone who goes above and beyond, we are really speaking of Nancy Crudale," Valerie said.
Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (401) 667-2923 or apply online at https://www.homeinstead.com/169/home-care-jobs. For further information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit our website at https://www.homeinstead.com/169 .
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