CAREGiver of the Month - Susan


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For Susan, No Other Job Would Be as Satisfying as CaregivingCAREGiver of the Month - Susan

Susan Hitchner is a natural-born caregiver. She is one of those compassionate souls who has been a caregiver since she earned her high school diploma. After high school, Susan quickly became a CNA and added to her education by attending vocational school and taking college classes.

“I can honestly say this is all I know. I’ve done nothing but caregiving,” Susan pointed out. “I never worked in retail or any other fields because I don’t have the desire for those jobs.”

For 22 years, Susan successfully ran an Alzheimer’s daycare center in New Jersey as the program director. “Every one of our daycare participants was in a different stage of dementia,” Susan explained. “Dementia is very personal and affects people so differently. We had some challenging participants and some loving ones. A few of them wanted to leave the center early, but I could refocus them, and they would stay. I always did it through encouragement. That is how you reach anyone.”

Susan was heartbroken to leave the program, but her husband received a job transfer to the Winchester, Virginia, area seven years ago. “When we moved here, I stayed at home and spent time with the grandkids. But I could not stay home too long,” Susan explained.

Shortly before New Year’s Day in 2016, Susan joined Home Instead Senior Care® of Winchester, owner Keith Clay’s franchise that serves the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including 25 other communities in addition to Winchester. She had seen Home Instead Senior Care in a newspaper advertisement and applied online. Two years and three months later, Susan was honored as CAREGiver of the Month.

“Home Instead is a very good company, and so is the staff. They do everything well. I appreciate them. Training is most definitely good,” Susan said. In terms of job flexibility, she noted: “They help by working around my schedule. If something unexpected pops up and I need time off the next day, I can do that. Plus, I am lucky to have clients who have helped with scheduling. I love the clients and am happy with Home Instead. I don’t want to leave the clients. I make every effort to be with them.”

Susan is serious about assisting her four regular clients and even worked with franchise staff to postpone jury duty to remain with the clients. And the four clients, who have been with Susan since she started with Home Instead Senior Care, have made it clear they don’t want to lose her.

“I was slowed a bit for seven weeks in 2017 with an injury, but I persevered and remained on the job pretty much the whole time to stay with the clients,” Susan recalled. “The clients depend on me so much, and I have appreciative clients. I’m not saying it’s easy every day. You’ve got to have patience. Sometimes I take a step back and say, ‘This is my job.’ For one client, people have told me I need to strongly encourage him to do some things on his own, but it’s hard because he cannot walk.”

One client has late-stage Alzheimer’s and resides in a facility. “She is a prime example of why I love my job. One day a week, for two hours, I provide companionship. She seldom has visitors. I really enjoy working with her,” Susan said. “She knows who I am. I come in when she is sitting at the dining room table. She smiles so big when she sees me.”

Another client, afflicted by stroke and living alone in a rented house, is wheelchair-bound and depends on Susan as one of his few lifelines to the outside world. “He is frustrated and depressed. I encourage him by giving him pep talks and telling him, ‘You are going to walk again.’ He receives in-home physical therapy. He previously walked for a time with a cane, but he had a setback because of pneumonia and needs to get his strength back,” Susan said.

A third regular client receives care from his daughter, grandson and the daughter’s friend when Susan is not with him. Susan helps him out of bed, walks him to the kitchen table for breakfast and later assists with personal care before he can read from his Bible and practice his faith. The client, whose wife died last year, tells Susan, “I would not know what to do without you.” A touching moment comes at the close of each shift six times a week. “He is so appreciative that he grabs my hand and kisses it before I go,” Susan said.

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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