CAREGiver of the Month Carolyn Ross admits, “I am a little old-fashioned.”That means Carolyn is a stickler for doing what is right in every aspect of her job with the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise that serves the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Winchester and 25 other communities. In fact, Carolyn has her own standards that stretch beyond the stringent ones required by owner Aaron Blight’s award-winning franchise. “I feel I need to always address the clients with proper respect: I use ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ before their name until they tell me differently,” Carolyn said. Then, with a nervous laugh, Carolyn added: “I just know when I am called ‘Home,’ and I see my mom in heaven, she’ll slap me upside the head if she finds out I did not address an elder properly. I try to pass that advice along to the younger CAREGivers. They should earn the respect of their clients. Respect, dignity, independence. That’s the basis for great caregiving.” Carolyn’s devotion to her clients stretches beyond her hours with them. “I have a loyalty to my clients and want to stay with them. I don’t want them to have to start over with a new CAREGiver if I can help it. I always give two weeks’ notice before a vacation so the clients can prepare themselves emotionally for a replacement. I never want to surprise them. I offer to train my substitute,” Carolyn explained.It’s no wonder one client doesn’t want any other CAREGiver. But Carolyn has had to remain flexible with other clients who have been challenging. In fact, the daughter of an 86-year-old dementia client told the office staff before starting service: “I need a strong person for my mother, one who can put up with a lot and not take it personally. It is not in my mom’s best interest to be pampered – the CAREGiver needs to encourage Mom to do as much as possible for herself.” Enter Carolyn, who remained with the client for two years before she passed away. “Because of her dementia,” Carolyn said, “she was very strong-willed and, to be honest, it was a view of the difficult side of Alzheimer’s. Her daughter struggled with her. I learned a lot. I knew not to take it personally. I had to refocus her often. I always was communicating with the client while I was working with her. I encouraged her to do what she could do safely with personal care. It kept her somewhat active.”Carolyn also had a different perspective of the client because they had lived in the same city, and Carolyn knew how the dementia affected the client. “I had known of her all my life. She was always dressed well head to toe, and I have so many memories of her. I think about her often,” Carolyn said. “She had many great stories, and I knew about some of them. She was outgoing and well-known. She would always say hello. The changes were profound, but it was an honor to serve her and her family.” As a family caregiver, Carolyn took care of her mother eight years ago before she died at 98. She also helped with her mother-in-law’s care three years ago. “My mother-in-law was in a nursing home, and I was trying to bring her home. I ended up helping take care of her at the nursing home,” Carolyn said. “When my senior loved ones got sick, including my sister and an uncle, I helped as much as I could. For my mother, my siblings and I got together and scheduled her care.” With Carolyn, her senior loved ones always were in good hands. In fact, she worked for 23 years with a national insurance company that touts itself as “The Good Hands People.” “For 12 years, I oversaw our corporate Helping Hands committee program for our region in which the company’s agents and employees volunteer with local nonprofit organizations. I always have been giving back, and I have included seniors in my thoughts and plans. When I retired from the insurance company, I had nothing to do to give back. This job is a great way to get back to working with seniors,” Carolyn explained. After an online search, Carolyn interviewed with Home Instead Senior Care in March 2014 and started soon after. “I had a good interview. I liked their commitment and what they were doing because it is important. I enjoy the work, and there is good communication with the staff. It is no 9-to-5 corporate job. Golden rule is important, and something I always think about as I get older. I can tell by the clients’ expressions how things are going. It is a good feeling to help.”
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