CAREGiver of the Month Carol-Anne Tureck said she learned a life lesson with a Home Instead Senior Care® client several years ago. "Don't look at the surface. Look deeper beyond the person you see in front of you and try to seek the heart of that person," she explained.
She was working for the Home Instead Senior Care franchise in Grayslake, Illinois, at the time almost five years ago when her unique experience unfolded. Three years ago, she got married, moved 30 miles south and left the franchise. She shifted to the award-winning Home Instead Senior Care franchise in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, where she has worked for the past 2½ years. But her beautiful memory of the longtime client at Grayslake will never fade.
The CAREGiver-client relationship, however, got off to a rocky start. "This happens with some clients; it is not unusual. The client had been independent for so long she did not want anyone to help her. When I started, she was difficult. but I think she would have been that way with anyone. After being with her for two days, I was not sure I would last," the CAREGiver admitted.
So, she intently looked for another side of her client. "I focused on finding the best in her and looked past the bluster. The tenor of our situation changed one day after she wanted to chat. She had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she articulated she didn't know how much longer she'd live and was afraid of dying," she said. "To try to lessen her apprehension and give perspective, I told her, 'Each of us will face death. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow.' By that, I meant I could die in a car accident after leaving her house. I suggested the best approach was to make the most of each day. Actually, she lived on for two years after our talk."
The CAREGiver added: "After that, everything seemed to click, and she became like a second mom to me. In fact, she played a big role in my life. We grew to love each other, and we joked about our slow start. I literally became part of her family. I went on the road with her for her family vacations, to Texas among other places."
When Carol-Anne married and moved after the 2½-year client-CAREGiver relationship, both were sad. She remained in contact and visited her former client after she was hospitalized. "She told me, 'Carol-Anne, I don't want you to go.' I knew her time was short, and I stayed as long as I could," she recalled. Two years ago, the 78-year-old former client passed away. "Clients and CAREGivers can become so attached. I will always remember her. I keep a picture of her in my room. She was one of a kind," the CAREGiver said, her voice tinged with emotion.
She had several takeaways from that CAREGiver experience and others that have followed. "I love to put a smile on my clients' faces and bring laughter. I want to light up my clients' days. They can go through a range of emotions for many reasons, including chronic pain or confusion resulting from dementia. I always show a positive attitude. I don't like negative things. Put out a positivity to someone, and it will likely return rewards," she noted.
When she became a CAREGiver, Carol-Anne said, she vowed to take care of her clients as if they were her parents. "You always would want to give your parents your very best. Taking care of seniors is a passion that comes from the heart. Before I took the CAREGiver job, I tried to have a mentality, an attitude, that I want my parents to be comfortable," she said.
For Carol-Anne, a critical family caregiving experience arose more than 10 years ago when her late father suffered two strokes. "That is how I got the feel of taking care of older family members. When Dad had a stroke, we as a family had to be united, including my sister, my brother and me. Mom was the primary caregiver. We gave Mom a break," she recalled.
"After the first stroke, he recovered with the help of physical therapy. The second stroke was very difficult. Mom had the passion to take care of Dad, and I learned from my mother's strong example. Mom is fine and is doing well on her own, and she asks about my job. She is proud of me for being a CAREGiver because I have a passion for my job. I also help take care of my mother-in-law, taking her to medical appointments."
She is happy to work with three clients in a schedule for owner Kelly Hutchison's franchise that keeps her busy from Monday through Friday. Carol-Anne loves the Scrabble games she plays with a client who is trying to maintain memory skills. "I don't win that often when we play Scrabble," she said in a tone of admiration. "The client is good at Scrabble and is very good at crossword puzzles because she has been working them most of her life. We sometimes do marathon Scrabble. It brings her joy, but we play only one game if she is tired."
She lost an 85-year-old client last January when she moved to a care community. Again, it was another sad parting that left Carol-Anne and the client in tears because they shared a special bond. In November, the client fell, broken her hip and had surgery. The client's family wanted Carol-Anne to remain with their mother after the surgery because her attitude had understandably taken a major downturn because of the injury.
She explained: "I wanted to change her mind-set. I kept telling her, 'You won't be like this forever; it just takes time.' A positive attitude was her best weapon to overcome her injury. The most powerful part in our whole bodies is our mind, and you can use your mind to recover. As the weeks went by, she got better and didn't need a lot of help. I was so proud of her.
"We had a lot of fun together. I came up with 'Hot Fudge Fridays,' which was something for her to look forward to. Before I'd get two hot fudge sundaes for us, I made sure everything in the house was in order. On our final day, which was emotional, I told her it was not a goodbye forever. I said, 'I'll see you later,' and I have. I keep my promises."
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