Client care is never the same, CAREGiver of the Month Sandy Jorgensen points out, emphasizing that adaptability is the key to meeting the clients’ unique challenges. Sandy, a retired New York City surgical nurse, has worked for more than 10 years with the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise that serves the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Winchester and 25 other communities.Among her assignments, Sandy accepts the challenge of assisting clients who are battling cancer. “Beyond my nursing job,” she said, “I had experience with cancer patients. Both of my parents died from cancer. I was their family caregiver, and I took leaves of absence to do it. Of course, I have had a lot of training. I understand those situations and deal with them pragmatically. No one can stop someone from dying. I try to make each day as good as it can be.’’ In a measured tone of voice, Sandy said: “I am an old operating-room nurse who has seen just about everything. I don’t get distressed while dealing with tough things. I’ve seen challenging situations and tough days, but I push on.”The Home Instead Senior Care office believed Sandy was the perfect CAREGiver for one situation in which a 66-year-old client was undergoing cancer treatments and faced other difficulties. “For 2½ years, I took care of a gentleman who had an open tracheotomy, and his lower jaw was gone. He had a stomach feeding tube. He appreciated the fact that I was OK dealing with it. The physical appearance of his wounds didn’t bother me,” said Sandy, who more fully explained her experiences in a question-and-answer format.Question: What about communicating with this client?Sandy: “His brain was fine, and he had total understanding of what was going on. He would type on a device that spoke to me because he could not talk. Later, we figured out a better and shorter way of communicating, which was nodding or shaking his head for yes or no and using the OK sign with his hand. He also kept a yellow pad with a pen and would write notes to me. I kept notes so it would refresh my memory with care conditions.” Question: How were you involved in helping with his cancer treatments?Sandy: “I drove him to Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore twice a month for the treatments. It was a three-hour drive, and we would leave at 5 a.m. to avoid the rush hour. Those were 12-hour days that involved a lot of things, including family preparation. He loved music, so I played CDs that he loved on those trips.”Question: Can a client’s death sometimes catch you by surprise?Sandy: “Despite his condition, this client’s death blindsided us. We couldn’t have anticipated it. I talked to him on a Friday and told him I’d see him Monday. He responded by communicating that he was looking forward to it. When I came Monday, the family said he had passed away. I stayed with them and helped however I could. There was a lot of sadness but, in retrospect, it was a ‘good death,’ because he died in his sleep and there were no signs he suffered.” Question: Your experience has prompted you to alert clients and their families to possible problems. Describe some of those situations.Sandy: “An 84-year-old client had a negative reaction to a treatment. When I arrived, I called his daughter, who took him to a hospital where he spent the next two weeks. In addition to the visible problems, he was suffering from dehydration and low blood sugar. A different client was sent home and told she had a week to live. Her daughter and I talked about a malady that might have been missed, and we were right. The client lived on, from May to October, although we had no illusions she would live for a long time. But she did have more valuable time to practice her faith and deal with a family matter, a reunion that was very meaningful.”Question: How do you handle a client’s passing?Sandy: “First, I try to assist the family in any possible way. After one client passed away, I stayed with the daughter and went with her to buy a funeral dress because I felt she needed to have someone with her. I take the time off before the funeral and during the rest of the week after the funeral so I can process the passing of a client. They often are like family members, especially if I have been with them for an extended time. It is part of my mourning, and the office is awesome about understanding what we CAREGivers go through.”
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