For CAREGiver of the Month Julie Hoffman, there has been no better feeling than working as part of a 24/7 team at Home Instead Senior Care® of Birmingham that provided unmatched care for a client for more than a year until she recently passed away at age 87.
“I was happy and proud to be a part of this great team because all CAREGivers clearly gave their best,” Julie said. “There was absolute harmony, and the client was the sweetest lady ever. The communication among us was great. She spoke highly of everybody on the team, and that made me feel good because I knew she was in good hands. I know each CAREGiver, and they are all excellent.”
Julie’s demeanor made all the difference to her client, who told Julie: “You are always so calm, even in the midst of my most panicky times. You never get worked up.” Working with a client who was complimentary – one of her favorite quotes was “thanks loads!” – added to the fulfilling experience. “My heart melted when my client would say, ‘I always feel safe when I am with you.’ She said it frequently, and it meant a lot to me. It was the best compliment she could pay me. She always looked forward to seeing me,” Julie said.
“Home Instead feels like a second family. When I walk into the office, the staff is very welcoming and listens to feedback. After the client passed away, I got a hug and they consoled me. That meant so much. I have met good CAREGivers and made good friends, too.
“Bert Copple is a great boss and leader who is very accommodating and truly cares,” said Julie, who also works full time as a special needs aide with kindergarten and first-grade students at a public school system, a job she has held for 22 years.
After an internet search for a part-time job, Julie started with Home Instead Senior Care on Oct. 31, 2012. Trick or treat? Treat all the way, Julie said.
“I really enjoy the job; it fits in well with my full-time job because I can work full time in the summer if I want. Otherwise, I work weekends and some weekday nights. I love taking care of people, and I want my care to be the very best. I will get older one day, and I will want someone who will take care of me just like I have taken care of my clients,” said Julie, voicing a pay-it-forward theme.
Julie had experience as a family caregiver before joining Home Instead. “Nothing I’ve seen on my job has ever bothered me – I just put my gloves on and go to work. I think I learned that from taking care of my mom, who was diagnosed with cancer and died in 16 months,” Julie said.
Julie recently helped an 80-year-old uncle who had brain surgery. “He has just made the long road back from surgery to rehabilitation to assisted living to returning home, from July until now,” Julie said. “I helped him, probably about five hours a week, with things such as grocery shopping, laundry, organizing his meds, driving him around. My uncle was really struggling as a result of the brain surgery, and he really had to rebuild. I am proud of him; he’s back to driving.”
Julie also assists her 85-year-old father who lives in Warren and tries to help her uncle on occasion. “Dad started having health problems at 80. He broke a hip and has had knee problems. I took a month off from Home Instead Senior Care to help him,” Julie said.
Perhaps Julie’s most memorable client was the one who passed away.
“She was delightful and sharp, and not difficult at all. She would ask about my family and was interested in how my dad and uncle were doing. The biggest thing about her was that she did not want to go back to the hospital. She wanted to remain at home,” Julie said. “She was a battler, and she went to the hospital many times but always returned home. She would apologize for being sick. She never snapped at me – she was a very positive person.
“When she died, it was harder than I thought it would be. While it was devastating to me, her death was not unexpected. I happened to be the CAREGiver who was with her and a son and daughter when she passed away; I am glad they were there because I think being together eased the blow for all of us in some respects.”
Summing up her experiences, Julie said her job is not always easy but does bring fulfillment. “I had a client who had Alzheimer’s and was in hospice. She slept quite a bit of the day,” Julie explained. “They say the last thing to go is hearing, so I would read things, including poetry, to try to keep her at least a little engaged.
“The client couldn’t signal or say anything to acknowledge that she was hearing me, but I really hoped so. I didn’t want to give up trying to be a line of communication for her. It may or may not have been meaningful for her, but I thought at least trying to reach her was meaningful to me.”
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