CAREGiver of the Month Margaret Cummings doesn't see herself as a hero, but there's no doubt she saved a client's life. A 66-year-old diabetic amputee had fallen out of his wheelchair, struck his head and was unconscious and bleeding before Margaret arrived for her 11:30 a.m. shift. When there was no answer after she knocked and called his name, Margaret went in. Entering the kitchen, she noticed the blood-covered floor and saw the client sprawled out.
Margaret quickly called 911, and the client's family was notified immediately. As she assessed the situation, Margaret saw one finger moving from the otherwise motionless client. EMTs from the local volunteer fire and rescue department, familiar with the client because of previous falls, hustled Margaret's client to the hospital.
"He must have been lying on the floor for at least 20 or 30 minutes before I got there," Margaret theorized. "I quickly cleaned up the floor and drove to the hospital. An hour later, he was still in the emergency room. He was fine, but he could not remember anything because he thought he had 'blacked out' unexpectedly. At the hospital, they said his blood sugar was dangerously low. His son, who lived about an hour away, took him home that night," Margaret recalled.
The accolades poured in – everyone agreed Margaret had saved the day. Margaret received the Hands and Heart Award from Home Instead Senior Care of Winchester, a franchise that serves 26 communities in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. The client also presented Margaret with a gift certificate for a health spa, along with some kind words.
"Hero? It was no big deal. It was what I was supposed to do. Anyone coming to his home would have done the same thing. I never had been involved in a life-and-death situation before," Margaret said. "I didn't realize I saved his life until after the fact. Give the EMT squad credit because they did an excellent job. He was a big man, so it would have been impossible for me to move him. I did everything I was trained to do. I'd have felt badly if it had turned out any other way than the way it did."
Sadly, the client died in March. "In addition to us CAREGivers, he had a nurse two or three times a week who would change the bandages on his leg. He had no wife, and people prepared meals for him. Every day of the week, he had an excellent CAREGiver," Margaret said.
Margaret tied preparedness for the experience to Home Instead Senior Care's ongoing training.
"One of the things I appreciate is the workshops and ongoing training Home Instead has all the time. You learn what to do with hands-on training. All of the ongoing training is very good and really helped. Each year, we need to achieve 12 hours of training, and it's worth the time, a good deal," she said.
Margaret, a New Hampshire native who moved to the Winchester area in 2003, noticed Home Instead Senior Care for the first time in a television commercial.
Even more impactful, Margaret saw Home Instead's Be a Santa to a Senior® display while shopping at a Kmart in 2014. The popular Be a Santa to a Senior program works this way: Home Instead partners with organizations to find seniors who might not otherwise receive holiday gifts. Home Instead then works with businesses to help facilitate the purchase of gifts. The seniors' gift requests are written on a Be a Santa to a Senior tree ornament or card. Home Instead staff, CAREGivers and volunteers deliver the gifts. Blankets, socks, sweaters and other basic-need items often can be found in the brightly wrapped packages.
"I took two cards, bought presents for those seniors and took them into the Home Instead office. The office staff asked me then to apply to become a CAREGiver. I did not apply at that time because I already had a museum volunteer job. I later went back to Home Instead to get an application because I was more interested in a job that helps others," said Margaret, who became a CAREGiver in 2015.
Margaret has been on opposite age spectrums of caring for people, and she has been innovative when facing challenges. One year during her 25-year career as a grade-school teacher in New Hampshire, Margaret brought a friend to class to teach sign language to her especially boisterous group of students. "After that, we spoke to each other in sign language sometimes," she said, "and it was much quieter. It was fun, different and set a different tone for communication."
At Home Instead Senior Care, Margaret said: "I really love the people with whom I work. The schedulers are awesome, top notch. The schedulers go out of their way to closely match CAREGivers and clients, as well as involving the clients' families with their needs. I like everyone at the franchise because they are nice and helpful. Communications are good. If they don't know the answer to a question, they find out. As far as clients go, I feel lucky to get such good clients."
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.