Most CAREGiver candidates are asked, "Have you ever taken care of an elderly relative?"
In Judy Herbster's case, the answer was an absolute "yes." Judy had accumulated plenty of family caregiving experience well before she joined Home Instead Senior Care® of Winchester in November 2018. In fact, the January CAREGiver of the Month is still taking care of her stepfather, who lives with Judy and her husband.
Judy's family caregiving began more than 10 years ago, with her grandmother and mother. Judy's grandmother remained in her own home, while Judy's mother came to live with Judy and her husband. Judy's grandmother died six years ago, and her mother passed away a year later.
"I've helped people for a long time. My 77-year-old stepfather has dementia, but he is hanging in there. He lives with us, and I take him to the doctor, among other things. My husband helps, too," said Judy, who also had worked for the community of aging in Hampshire County, West Virginia.
Nearly 16 months ago, Judy was driving in Winchester when she saw the office sign for the award-winning Home Instead Senior Care franchise that serves Northern Shenandoah Valley and is guided by President and CEO Anthony Crosen. That prompted her to apply.
The job, Judy said, has been a good one. "I love to see the clients smile and enjoy themselves. Most clients are really nice," she said. At one time, Judy had four clients, but now she has settled in with one regular client, a 75-year-old woman who lives alone and receives 24/7 care.
Judy and another CAREGiver combine to handle the night shifts because familiarity is important to the client – just as it is for most clients. Judy began helping the client when she came home from the hospital following a surgery. The client has depended on CAREGivers ever since, although Judy left after a scheduling change and has come back.
"She is afraid to be by herself although her mobility is fairly good, but it can be a fearful time for a senior who is rebounding from surgery. The worrying extends to shift changes. She wonders who is coming next to help her. There are five or six members of us CAREGivers on her team, and she knows me. The client is appreciative. She enjoys us and feels safe with us CAREGivers there," Judy said.
The client is not a night owl, and sometimes she is in bed when Judy arrives at 9 o'clock. But the client also has asked Judy, "Would you please stay on the couch in the living room, which is near my bedroom?" Judy answers, " 'Of course, yes.' It helps her to sleep better, knowing I am close by. She sleeps well with me in her home."
The client might awake if her cat, Snoopy, knocks something off the counter. Judy said: "I can't help but love Snoopy, her cat. He is curious and is big, fat and gray. Snoopy is friendly, and the cat is her baby."
Judy added: "Although my hours generally are not the best for it, we've gone for pedicures and manicures because she likes to get out."
Judy recalls memorable evenings with other clients.
"I took care of a husband and wife, and he liked to occasionally go around the house with a flashlight at night. Sometimes he shined it at me. I got my own flashlight and shined it at him one night and surprised him. We laughed," Judy said. "He died six months ago. I still see the wife by visiting her in a care community. Despite her dementia, she remembers me. She hugs me and smiles. She knows her husband is gone; she was with him when he died. Married for more than 50 years, they were like two kids holding hands. These are the memories a CAREGiver can have. It makes the job worth it."
Home Instead CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide a variety of in-home support services to help keep seniors independent. For employment inquiries in Winchester, Virginia, apply here or call (540) 904-1190. Or, for more information, go to Home Instead Senior Care Winchester. For employment inquiries in Martinsburg, West Virginia, apply here or call (304) 301-3896. Or, for more information, go to Home Instead Senior Care Martinsburg.