The Home Instead Senior Care® client noticed award-winning CAREGiver Pearl Obeng was bringing her Bible on Sundays because Pearl would head to church services or to her church's nursing home ministry after her shift.
Then one day, the 97-year-old widow initiated a conversation about spiritual matters, asking about Bible events in an effort to get Pearl to refresh her memory about her faith. Pearl was more than happy to accommodate. "She is mesmerized – she is silent and hardly moves as she takes in every word while I describe events such as the Abraham-Lot story that appears in Genesis 13," said Pearl, a member of the Detroit World Outreach in Redford.
"I knew the Bible stories were having an impact because I walked in one night and found a book entitled, 'How to Study the Bible.' She had picked it up when she and a CAREGiver visited a bookstore during the day. Bible stories are one of the activities I use to keep her mind working. My client likes to be challenged, and she does crossword puzzles, but I like to change it up by bringing her new challenges. I introduced her to Scrabble and play it with her. Each week, I also ask her to solve a riddle and give clues for a couple of days. These brain teasers keep her involved and thinking, and they are fun and get her to laugh."
Pearl packs more into one week than most people do in a month. In addition to her shifts for Home Instead Senior Care in Birmingham, she works weekdays at the Judson Center in Royal Oak, where she serves as the center's Thrifty Boutique job coach and manager. The Judson Center provides services that strengthen children, adults and families impacted by abuse and neglect, autism, developmental disabilities and mental health challenges. "I work with five young adults – most are autistic – to get them ready for working in the community and teach them so they can have a career," Pearl said.
Explaining why she likes caregiving so much, Pearl reached back into her childhood. "I helped take care of seniors as I was growing up. I had a passion for people when I was young and wanted to do things to help them. That passion never left me," Pearl said. "I remember in the 1980s when an older lady called my house one day, and it was the wrong number. But she wouldn't let me off the phone because she wanted someone to hear her. I listened to her hardships, and when she broke down and started crying, I did, too. Then we prayed together."
Pearl has assisted her client for about two years and has learned everything about her client's personality. "That is something you pick up after more than 25 years of caregiving. I learned how to deal with all kinds of personalities. In addition to seniors, I have worked with the autistic and bipolar, and many others with challenging behaviors. There is no halfway in caring for people – either you are all in or you are of no use to them."
One of Pearl's challenges is to help her client maintain her dignity. She understandably doesn't remember all of her CAREGivers. "In her kitchen, we keep a sheet with pictures of all of her CAREGivers. The client is so self-conscious about forgetting names that before a CAREGiver comes in, I point out the CAREGiver's picture and speak her name so she can greet the CAREGiver because it means a lot to my client. She always turns to me and whispers, 'Thanks.' I don't want her to feel lost when she tries to remember everyone who helps her."
So how does the client address Pearl when she comes in the door? "I am always known to her as 'My First' or 'The First,' and she's referring to the fact that I was one of the first CAREGivers to spend nights with her. She knows my face and is happy to see me, but she cannot put a name to my face, other than calling me 'My First.' "
Pearl has been a CAREGiver a little more than three years. "Home Instead is one of the greatest agencies I've ever worked with, and I've seen a few," Pearl said. "I describe them by using the words 'truth' and 'integrity.' Home Instead's integrity is spread out in whatever it does. Bert Copple, our owner, has integrity with a capital 'I.' In addition to the clients, Bert and the office look out for us CAREGivers and are concerned about our welfare. They also prepare us expertly to do the job. The training is good and ongoing. Bert makes sure that each CAREGiver is equipped and empowered."
Asked about the future and maintaining the pace that she does with both jobs, Pearl said with a chuckle, "I plan to live to be 101 and enjoy the rest of my days. I want to enjoy my grandkids and great-grandkids. I'll be 60 in December and would like to continue to work until I am 66. I also feel now as if I am paying it forward because when I get older and need the help, I hope I get a loving person to assist me."
Home Instead CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide a variety of in-home services to help keep seniors independent. For inquiries about employment with Home Instead Senior Care, please call (248) 203-2273 or email Anne Monaghan at anne.monaghan@homeinstead. For further information about the company, visit http://www.homeinstead.com/283/Pages/HomeInsteadSeniorCare.aspx, or to learn more about the company's services link to a digital brochure at http://www.hisc283.digbro.com/.
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