CAREGiver of the Month Isabela Contreras worried at first when she joined Home Instead Senior Care® of Winchester six years ago because she had not previously worked in senior care. No. 1: "Would the clients like me?" No. 2: "Will it take a long time for the clients and me to get used to each other?"
The answers were: For question No. 1: A resounding yes. For question No. 2: A resounding no.
"Compassion" is universally understood, and it's an action word for Isabela. Her clients quickly know Isabela is a great match for them. While the clients and their families can easily see Isabela's heart, she also works with a sense of urgency. Isabela makes sure she knows everything about her clients, including their needs, likes and dislikes.
"I learn everything as quickly as I can. With every client the office tried, they wanted me back," said Isabela, who was honored as CAREGiver of the Month in April 2018 by owner Keith Clay's franchise that serves the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including 25 other communities in addition to Winchester. "I've remind our clients that if I can't be there all the time that we do have other excellent CAREGivers."
The bottom line with senior care, Isabela said, is being a people-person pleaser. "I like working with everyone, seniors and their families," explained Isabela, who originally took business education classes and worked in a store for five years before starting her own cleaning business. She still runs her business in addition to working for Home Instead Senior Care. "I have a variety of experiences and have a well-rounded work career," she added.
"When I tried Home Instead, I started with companionship services and quickly moved to full senior care. I like my job because I help others. You must have compassion to do this job correctly. When I started the job, I did not realize how much loneliness there is among seniors. There is a great need for CAREGivers because there are a lot of needs, but chief among them is having human contact. I am glad to be there in place of family members because they are busy with jobs and their children or they live too far away. It is hard sometimes when a client gets a CAREGiver for the first time. I assure them I will do everything I can to help them."
Being a CAREGiver has prompted Isabela to make sure her family keeps its close ties. "My mother, who is still working, lives with me," Isabela said. "I see how much my clients miss their families, and I tell my daughters, 'Come and see your grandmother as often as you can; take her out to eat and ask her what she needs. The time might come when she can do nothing as far as interacting with you.' They do see her practically every weekend, which is good."
Family means everything to Isabela. "My three daughters are all very smart, and I am proud of them. We are very close. The oldest one is in law enforcement (24 years old); the middle one is in medical school (21); and youngest one wants to eventually go to a law enforcement academy (16)," Isabela said. "As strongly as they feel about me and their grandmother, I want my four regular clients to feel that way about me. I want them to think of me as family."
One of her clients, a 76-year-old man, wants no one else other than Isabela. She said: "He is a very nice man, very polite. I love working with him. I've been with him two years, and I help him three days a week with everything, including medication reminders, light housekeeping and meal preparation. He said he also wants me because no one makes sandwiches like I do. He wants a sandwich that has scrambled eggs, cheese, and other ingredients on toasted bread."
One of Isabela's memorable clients died nearly two years ago after they had been together for four years. "Death is so sad, but there is a consolation to which we can hold dear. When they die, they go to a better life. I love them and miss them, but they are no longer suffering. I am still friends with my late client's family, who would always go to the office and tell them, 'Send Isabel!' I knew how my late client liked everything, and that's why they wanted me. I saw what food she liked, how she liked her coffee and things like that. I am very practical. I like to put out the best. I like to help prepare everything," she said.
Isabela's mother is proud of her daughter, but … "Mom prays for me because she thinks I am too busy. She said, 'You don't need to work that much.' I go to church on Sunday after I finish with my overnight shift, and I thank God for the whole week because I feel blessed," Isabela said.
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