“You should do this for a living.”That’s what Penny Elliott’s mother often said after Penny had helped her with everything from light housekeeping to personal care. Penny would always smile and say to herself: “It is easy to take care of Mom, someone I knew well. But, taking care of strangers? No.”Penny’s mother had experienced health problems for many years, including several debilitating strokes and a fall that resulted in a broken hip. Penny tried to take care of her, along with some help with other family members. “Mom and Dad had been married for 50-some years and wanted to stay together, but Dad was exhausted and Mom ultimately needed two sets of hands for care,” Penny explained. “Mom spent her final years in a nursing home, where I visited her every day, sometimes twice a day. When I’d visit, I’d be helping her. As it turned out, that’s where I got more caregiving experience, and it was an honor for me to help Mom.”Penny was with her mother when she suffered her last stroke. The last thing she told Penny was, “You’re such a good daughter and caregiver. Do this for a living.” Penny’s mother died in March 2013 at age 77. About five months later, in August 2013, Penny joined Home Instead Senior Care® of Winchester, and she was honored as CAREGiver of the Month in April 2019. To Penny, the job is personal. She emphasized, “Mom is in my heart and the reason why I do this.” Penny added: “Working as a CAREGiver can be a very demanding job, and we all have those days. Day in and day out, memories of my mom, keep me going. I go forward, chugging along. I see her face and hear her voice in the back of my mind.” Penny draws on her Christian faith for daily challenges. “My faith is important to me, and I give God the praise and glory. God inspires me every day. If someone questions me about God, I always say, ‘How does faith in God hurt? Faith is a positive mindset.’ I want to keep a constant positive mindset,” she said. “I must point out that I am not perfect. Church is like a hospital for sinners, and we all need help. I feel I have a great heart, love people and try to be a good person. My favorite verse is Philippians 4:13, which says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ I turn to that verse, especially on a hard day. For clients, I pray: ‘Help me to help them.’ ” Penny will never forget her first day with her current regular clients, a husband and wife who receive 24/7 care from a team of Home Instead CAREGivers. It was Nov. 17, 2016, Penny’s birthday. She has been serving the couple since then, except when she was sidelined for several months after a surgery.The 90-year-old husband has Parkinson’s disease and is a military veteran who can be impacted by what he watches on television. Penny said: “We are careful with the programming he sees. He loves music and laughter, and we try to keep his viewing along those lines. His wife likes to sing, and since they thrive on lighter and happier things, certain shows are ideal. One of them is ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ It is wonderful to see and hear the wife react to the turns and other dancing techniques. Some of the dancing is from their era.”Asked about special client memories, Penny said: “It’s hard to pick one. There are so many things the clients do or say that can surprise you. I like the little things that generate a laugh or chuckle. The biggest challenges are dementia and chronic pain. Pain affects everything. Some clients are in pain and cannot tell us or express it because of dementia. They become frustrated, so you have to get to know them well, look for clues and help as much as you can.”Finally, Penny said: “A CAREGiver always has to have compassion. I pray to God and ask for wisdom to handle every situation. I want to always do the right thing.”
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