CAREGiver of the Month - Mary

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​​Client’s Impromptu Hug Brought Tears for Mary-Claire

The dementia client never knew CAREGiver of the Month Mary-Claire Hoffman’s name, but the client knew Mary-Claire was someone special because of the trust and rapport Mary-Claire had established. “She could be really funny, and she was sweet,” Mary-Claire said. 

Every night during her shift, Mary-Claire would help the client bathe and dress, making small talk during that time at the client’s care facility. Suddenly one day, the client reached for Mary-Claire without saying a word and gave her a big hug. “It was one of those defining moments. I thought: ‘This is the real reason I am here doing this work.’ It brought tears to my eyes. It still does whenever I think of the moment,” said Mary-Claire, who assists seniors on behalf of the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise that serves the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Winchester and 25 other communities.

Mary-Claire feels good about developing bonds with all clients. “The No. 1 aspect of senior care is developing relationships. If I were to talk to someone entering senior care, my message would be: ‘Try to make your client feel like you would want to feel. Stay positive. Build trust. Practice the Golden Rule. Treat them as if they were your loved ones.”

As a family caregiver, Mary-Claire recalls the three months when she and her mother teamed up to keep her grandmother at home before she passed away eight years ago at age 82. “I think of my grandmother a lot. She was a big influence on me to carry on the goal of helping someone in need,” Mary-Claire said. 

Mary-Claire’s grandmother needed 24/7 care, including hospice, at life’s end. With a baby at home, Mary-Claire quit her job to stay with her grandmother during the night hours, and Mary-Claire’s mother took the day hours. They kept their ailing senior loved one at home, Mary-Claire said, “because it was the best thing for her. She went from hospital to hospice. The hospice nurse came twice a week.” 

Senior care admittedly wasn’t Mary-Claire’s original goal when she earned her degree in human development at Oswego State University on Lake Ontario in upstate New York. Among her internships, she worked with people who had profound disabilities. After college, she landed a job as an assistant director at a day-care center that had 75 children. 

“Working as a CAREGiver is a little bit of the opposite of what I had been used to. After we moved here, I was looking for a part-time job. My husband and I have two girls, one in preschool and one in elementary school. I found Home Instead Senior Care online,” said Mary-Claire, who joined the owner Aaron Blight’s award-winning franchise in February 2013.

The job works well with their family, Mary-Claire said, because her husband is a teacher. “I absolutely love it, and it has become a very special job. The job flexibility is good. When family concerns come up, the office understands. They are supportive, and I never have to make a choice between my job and my family. The staff knows me and knows I won’t call off a shift unless it is important,” Mary-Claire said.  

Mary-Claire has one regular client, an 87-year-old female whose care is nearly 24/7. “She enjoys the solitude of having most afternoons to herself,” said Mary-Claire, whose work includes some overnight shifts. “She is a riot – my client is so wonderful.”

The two developed a close relationship after Mary-Claire joined the client in January 2016. In fact, the client asked Mary-Claire to take her to a son’s wedding last September in Culpeper, Virginia, about an hour and a half south of the client’s home. “It was really fun. I felt very privileged she asked me to take her. It was a fun thing to share. She held up well and was naturally tired on the way home. We got back at 10 p.m.,” Mary-Claire said. 

The client’s primary difficulty is mobility, but Mary-Claire welcomes all challenges and all clients. “It is important to me to have a wide array of clients, including hospice and dementia,” Mary-Claire said. “Home Instead Senior Care trains us as well as possible. With the personal-care classes, the staff nurses trained us for a week. No amount of training can prepare you for everything, and you must keep an open mind and adjust. I have learned from every situation because every client is different. The franchise is good about providing a minimum of 12 hours of ongoing training every year.”

In the end, Mary-Claire repeated, it boils down to relationships. “One-on-one care is a huge plus.
I am not in a rush to help someone. Going into a facility, I see the CNAs rushing around like you would not believe. It doesn't seem like there is enough time to do it all. We CAREGivers have time to develop companionship. You do the best you can, obviously, but of all the things you do, the personal touch might mean the most to someone.”​

All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call 540-722-8750 or apply online. For further information about our home care services, please visit Home Instead Senior Care​.​​​​​


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