Dig deeply into CAREGiver of the Month Maria Devargas Leh's past, and it's easy to see why Maria is one of the outstanding employees at Home Instead Senior Care® of Elk Grove Village, an award-winning franchise owned by Kelly Hutchison.
Maria's grandmother long ago told her young granddaughter, "Maria, you should be a healer, a special person who helps others physically and emotionally. I believe you have a natural touch that will provide relief to others. It is the way of our family."
Maria's heritage consists of Native American roots, as well as blood lines that can be traced to people from the Portuguese islands and the Celtics from the Iron Age Highlands of northern Britain and Islands of Scotland. Her innate personality and passed-down family knowledge and wisdom have meshed to create a compassionate and "can-do" person. Maria has been called "a Renaissance Woman" by family members, friends and acquaintances because she can repair just about anything, from a person's psyche to a car carburetor.
Said Maria: "I was the only child growing up in a family of wise, kind senior citizens. My grandma had a huge influence on my life. She was an intuitive person when it came to knowing afflictions and helping others."
Like her grandmother and many other family members, Maria is a spiritual person who offers an encouraging outlook to all with whom she comes into contact. "Being a CAREGiver is a lot more than dusting or doing the laundry, although those things are important. I want to make my clients feel better about themselves," Maria said. "When I hear sad thoughts or words borne out of depression, I always say, 'Let's think of something you can do that is positive and adds to your legacy.' Seniors ought to feel as if they are still a part of something significant."
Some seniors feel they are a burden on others, Maria pointed out, adding "Their friends are gone, perhaps their spouse has died, and they are feeling alone and isolated. I tell them, 'You are not a burden. You are an important part of the past. You can continue to be useful.' "
Maria added, "I ask them to remember their past, so they can pass it along to their family's future generations. So, we try to go into their genealogy and find their connections. It helps them remember good things about their past. I want them to do as much as they can for their descendants. I am excited over things we find. By searching on my cell phone for the client, I can find a great number of things. I even research things at home for them and bring them back."
Maria has been a CNA for three years and joined Home Instead Senior Care in March 2017. She was a private-duty caregiver for a client when the agency that was providing their main support closed. The couple heard about Home Instead and suggested Maria join the company and return to help them.
Home Instead Senior Care was a perfect fit for Maria. "The franchise training enlightened me. Also, none of the seniors in my family had dementia, so the dementia training and memory care Home Instead provides is very good. It is more in-depth and includes up-to-date information and techniques. It helps me with ways to encourage dementia clients," she said. "Training also has helped me get to know the staff better. Office communications are good, and the staff is a great support. Their flexibility is good."
In spite of her vast caregiving experience, Maria said she never stops learning. "In addition to being a CNA, I have taken all kinds of medical-field courses. I have certifications from across the country and even from Germany, where I lived for a while. My husband Tom encouraged me to go to medical school years ago, but I said it would make more sense to get a nursing certification. My husband is 'my partner in crime,' and I say that because he has a big heart and is a very compassionate person," Maria noted.
In all, she has six regular clients and receives calls for fill-in shifts. Home Instead Senior Care asks Maria to handle the biggest challenges. "I feel it out and see what the clients need most. Sometimes I know after just an hour with the client," Maria said. "I have experienced many medical challenges myself, so it helps me empathize with seniors and explain what they might be going through. I've been through much of the rehabs they've gone through. I understand. I've heard from clients: 'How much more do I have to do to get better?' I take what I have learned and what has helped me and explain it to the seniors. The main thing is to remain positive."
Asked about her favorite caregiving memories, Maria explained: "I did an overnight weekend with a client who had just left the hospital after heart surgery. I made it fun, like a slumber party. We were in PJs and funny shoes. I kept her safe and entertained the entire weekend while observing her condition for potential problems. She was occupied and not dwelling on any negative thoughts. It was fun for her and me."
Other good times are generated from outings that support feelings of independence for clients. "Clients like to go to places they used to frequent, such as shopping. If possible and safely done, I take them along for a few hours on shopping days. I let them pick out their own food instead of just giving me a grocery list. I make it fun if they can do it," she said.
Maria feels strongly about Home Instead. "I like how they operate. They have grown and evolved. Home Instead's care is a long way from just companionship. They meet so many different needs. I am glad to be part of that."
All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (847) 690-9825 or apply online at https://www.homeinstead.com/205/home-care-jobs . For further information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit our website at https://www.homeinstead.com/205 .