May 2018 CAREGiver of the Month - Cassie


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Memory of Grandmother Inspires Cassie CAREGiver of the Month - Cassie

Seven years after her death at age 93, CAREGiver of the Month Cassie Cannataro’s grandmother continues to have a dominating influence in Cassie’s life. “Missing my grandma led me down the path to become a CAREGiver,” said Cassie, who joined owner Kelly Hutchison’s award-winning Home Instead Senior Care® franchise in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, in March 2016.

“I miss my grandma terribly. At Home Instead, I felt I could make a difference for someone, and perhaps I could be assigned to help someone like my grandma. Of course, I count my mother as a best friend, but both grandmothers were also best friends and blessings to me,” Cassie added.

When Cassie was 10 years old, after her parents divorced, her dad moved out of state and her mother’s mom stepped in to assist the family. “My brother and I had a single mom who was working full time. Grandma enjoyed the company when she would make dinners for us and be there with us when my mom was working. Grandma was my second mother and a big, big influence on me. She spent a lot of her time helping us,” Cassie recalled.

“Nothing fazed her. She  had six kids, so I have five aunts and uncles – and Mom was the youngest. My grandfather died when my mom was 3, and Grandma had to raise them on her own, so there were lots of stories. She was feisty and had to stand up for herself. She gave me a whole different perspective of life, and I appreciate her even more as I get older.”

In the last stages of her grandmother’s life, Cassie and her mother served as caregivers. “Mom was Grandma’s primary caregiver. At first it was difficult for my grandma to have me see her in her most difficult times,” Cassie said. “We would help her shower at assisted living; in the beginning she was so embarrassed, but I reminded my grandma that she would have done the same for any of us if we were in her situation and I wanted to return that love. That’s how I feel now about my Home Instead clients, so my grandma’s care and compassion have translated to my job.”

Cassie touched on a multitude of subjects, including her other grandmother who has some health and memory issues, and is living in a care community in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Question: How is your grandmother doing?

Cassie: “I spend about a week in South Dakota each year. I can see the decline from one year to the next, and that’s tough. It is hard for me to be almost a thousand miles away and not be able to be a part of her support system. She is an amazing woman and has had a remarkable life of strength and endurance. It was hard for her to leave the home, where she had lived for more than 40 years. That’s the whole point of Home Instead, keeping seniors at home, if possible, because that’s where they do the best.”

Question: How did you find Home Instead Senior Care?

Cassie: “I was looking for a part-time job because I work full time in accounting in our family business. I didn’t want anything mundane, and I needed flexibility. Our son plays hockey, and another hockey mom told me about Home Instead helping her mother. Her mother has dementia, and the CAREGiver was great. I thought, ‘Maybe I should look into that.’ If I can’t be in South Dakota to help my grandma, and I miss my other grandma so much, maybe I can help someone else like them, and their families.” 

Question: You have deep feelings about caregiving. Can you express some of them?

Cassie: “My main takeaway is: make sure your clients have their dignity. I also remember how worried Mom was when she’d leave my grandmother’s side at the nursing home each night. As a CAREGiver, I want to give someone else a peace of mind by staying with their senior loved one. When you have earned their trust and confidence, it is the best compliment you can receive as a CAREGiver. Finally, caregiving is not just a job because the clients are my friends.”

Question: You lost a 97-year-old client last November. How did she impact your life?

Cassie: “She was a gift from God; she was so much like my grandma in so many ways.  At first, before I met her and I saw the assignment, I said to myself, ‘What am I getting myself into?’ She was a little closed off and reserved in the beginning. She was a lot like my grandma was about her privacy. It is difficult when you are a stranger coming into their homes. Over time, we developed a strong bond together. Her family and I communicated regularly and they knew how much I loved her, and I knew how much they loved me for that. Being with her was like having a piece of my both of my grandmas  with me. We laughed and cried together, and I have memories I will cherish forever. By the time I left her, we were good friends. She’d give me a goodbye kiss every day and would always tell me to be safe and say, ‘May God watch over you.’ ” 

Question: How did you handle the client’s death?

Cassie: “To put it in perspective, my grandma made me feel loved and appreciated. To lose that feeling when she died, I was devastating and I felt the same way about my client. I can’t turn off my emotions. After my client died, I didn’t know if I would be able to do this anymore. I needed to take time and process the grief. I told Kelly and the office: ‘I’ll call you when I am ready,’ and I eventually did a month later. I got a new client in December. One positive is that I still stay in regular contact with my late client’s daughter and the family. We talk and get together whenever we can, and that is also a bond I will treasure forever.” 

Question: How is it going with your most recent client?

Cassie: “She has a great sense of humor and always has been sweet, gentle and kind. She’s 83, has good mobility and gets up at 5 a.m. every day and does her Wii Fit exercises. We go to church each of the four days a week I’m with her. I arrive at 8 a.m., and we leave immediately for church. After church, we pick up prescriptions or go shopping, and I clean when I get back. I enjoy playing Scrabble or Yahtzee with her. She has an iPad, and she plays ‘Words With Friends.’ The challenge is to make sure she eats healthy.”

Question: Does the job seem to be a good fit all around?

Cassie: “Our office treats me well, and they have made it easy. Our owner, Kelly, is a gracious person who takes an interest in each of us CAREGivers. My husband is a great source of support in what I do. He was understanding with what I went through with my grandma when she needed us. He makes sure I see my other grandma when we can go to South Dakota. Now that I am a CAREGiver, he helps out to make sure things get done at home. He always tells me, ‘I got this’ when I feel stressed. That is so important. I have had no burnout. As long as there is someone out there who needs help, I will do it.”

All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (847) 350-7810 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.

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