Bob’s Helping Hand With Aunt Paved the Way for Caregiving Career

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Who would have guessed 24 years ago that Bob Houk would be embarking on a 10-year training ground for what he does now as an award-winning CAREGiver for Home Instead Senior Care® of Birmingham? “Looking back,” Bob said, “you could say that is what I was doing.”

Nearly every day after a 10-hour work day in a machine shop and on weekends, Bob would visit his aunt and stay for two or three hours to help with anything to keep her at home. Her final 2½ years were spent in a nursing home and, in 2004 at the age of 103, she died. The effort to help a senior loved one – as he does now on behalf of other families – was fulfilling.

“My aunt was more like my mother after Mom died when I was 7 years old,” explained Bob, a CAREGiver since July 2012. “She took me to games and events. I remember going with her to the Fox Theatre to see Jack Benny.”

With his aunt’s dementia, Bob saw some of the difficulties that seniors face, and they were experiences that may help him someday with a Home Instead client. One late-night call was an eye-opener. “I got a call from the police at 2 a.m.,” Bob recalled, “and they asked me to come over to her house because she called them and asked to have a body removed from the upstairs.

“I was a bit groggy and I told them, ‘There is no body,’ and they said, ‘We know, because we checked. This is not uncommon with the elderly, but we think you should come.’ It’s a 40-minute drive to Grosse Pointe, but I agreed. I went and stayed with her for a while to settle her down, and they were circling the block to make sure I was there.”

One symptom of dementia can include complex visual hallucinations, typically well-formed and detailed. “She started seeing her mom and dad, as well as my mom, who was her sister,” Bob said. “When she asked why she was seeing them, I told her: ‘They are just keeping you company until you come to join them.’ ”

Despite his time with his aunt, professional senior care was not on Bob’s radar during his 51 working years. He worked for 30 years at one machine shop and had two other 10½ -year stints with other machine shops. But in July 2012, he was training to become a Home Instead CAREGiver and then got his first regular client the next month.

Bob’s route to Home Instead traveled through two church sources and his wife. A friend who works for a church – not Bob’s – mentioned that her church received a Home Instead email touting CAREGiver jobs for its members. “She wondered if I was still looking for a part-time job,” Bob recalled, “and I was. My friend said, ‘Not everyone can do that job, but you can because you are patient. My wife also said: ‘You’re the kind of person who can do it.’

“Then I went to my pastor and asked what he thought – was I cut out for that kind of job? He said: ‘Go do it.’ I was reminded of my care for my aunt and decided to try it. I am happy; I love it – the clients I have had are good. After I took the job, I got to thinking: ‘I hope I will be lucky enough to have someone good who will take care of me someday.’ ”

Bob views his clients like family. “There is bonding and friendship,” said the February CAREGiver of the Month, who has two regular clients. “When I walk into one client’s house, he says, ‘Here comes my No. 1 CAREGiver!’ I have both clients on the same four days, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It works out well because they live not far from each other in Bloomington Hills, and I live in Troy.”

One of Bob’s clients is a sharp 80-year-old former business executive and golf enthusiast whose degenerative muscle disease is diminishing his mobility. “When I started with him,” Bob said, “he was using a cane, but now he uses a wheelchair.

“He gets down sometimes about his situation, and he is stir-crazy. One day, he wanted to get outside in zero-degree conditions on his motorized cart, so I bundled him up and left the apartment for a little while. His wife was fine with that because he likes to get out. One of his golf buddies gets him on Tuesdays to take him for lunch, and his son takes him to church.”

In addition to his time with his clients, Bob also likes the family-like atmosphere with office staff: “I think the world of them – I could go on and on about them. They are wonderful people and very helpful. Bert is a great boss, and others, such as Maria, Anne and Susan, do a great job and are awesome sounding boards. The training is excellent, and the internet training offerings help me; I think they are beneficial.”

When the 76-year-old CAREGiver was asked how long he’ll continue, he said: “I tell them at the first of every year, ‘Two more years!’ The Man Upstairs has been looking out for me, and I feel good. My wife is working, so I’d also like to keep going. I put my best into it.”

Home Instead CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide a variety of non-medical 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/, or to learn more about the company’s services link to a digital brochure at http://www.hisc283.digbro.com/.

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