CAREGiver of the Month - Mary

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​Mary Likes Quiet, Calm Approach to Helping Clients

For more than 16 years, Mary Harrington has toiled in relative anonymity while helping clients on behalf of Home Instead Senior Care® of Birmingham. The unsung hero recently was honored as CAREGiver of the Month, but she was reluctant to say much about it.

“I am really a behind-the-scenes person and am more comfortable with that role,” said Mary, who joined Home Instead Senior Care part time while working for a boys’ home where she had a multitude of responsibilities, including serving as a dietary specialist, helping with housekeeping and working with residents.

“I have helped people of all ages during my life. When I was 18 or 19, I worked in the dietary department at a skilled care community. Working for Home Instead has been quite an experience. I always liked working with seniors and had a love for them. Home Instead is a good company. They help you, and they are flexible with hours. The office staff is nice.”

Mary was asked about special times or circumstances with clients that she remembers in her long tenure during which she was selected as CAREGiver of the Month in 2012. “I think they all are special, and it’s hard to pick one over another,” she said. “I am not sure if I’ve seen tears of joy coming from clients, but I’ve sure shed a few tears.”

Mary assisted a client for eight years and remained with her in the hospital as she was dying of congestive heart failure. The client passed away four years ago, at age 89, with Mary at her side. “One minute she was good and the next minute her condition went downhill. It was hard because I had been with her for so long. She seemed at peace when she died. I felt bad, but I also know she was in a better place and was not in pain,” Mary recalled.

Reflecting on their time together, Mary said: “We had had our good and bad days. Long before she died, she’d tell me and others, ‘I think I am dying.’ I’d respond by saying, ‘You are not dying. You are staying with us so you can continue to bug us.’ That would get a laugh out of her. The client did outlive nearly everyone she knew. Because she never married, the client had only nieces and nephews, and the closest nephew would drive to her home on Sundays to visit her. As a CAREGiver, you can become like a family member to the clients and their families.”

Mary’s current regular client is in her late 50s and has multiple sclerosis. “She is special. We are about the same age. Again, like any other client, she has good and bad days,” Mary said. “Her physical situation has declined somewhat since I began helping her two years ago.”

Mary tries to stay positive no matter what the challenges. “My client told me once, ‘All of you CAREGivers are always smiling and saying everything is OK. How do you do it?’ I told her, ‘Between you and me, I can’t say I am always chipper, but I can’t be sad when I am with a client no matter what has gone on in my personal life.’ If you don’t have a positive attitude, the clients can tell right away. Companionship means you help people try to feel better, more so if they are having a tough day. It is not about me – it’s about them,” Mary pointed out.

In addition to being a CAREGiver, Mary is also a family caregiver. She has six grandchildren, four girls and two boys. The most recent addition arrived on the final Tuesday in November, and Mary rushed to the hospital to see her newest granddaughter.

“I see a lot of the three oldest grandchildren because they live the closest. They are 5, 7 and 9. I enjoy them. I want to take them to a lot of places – before I can’t walk anymore,” she joked. When it was suggested she was in good enough shape to be walking around in the distant future with great-grandchildren, Mary laughed and said, “Oh, Lordy.” One thing is for sure: her CAREGiver days are far from over.

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. For further information about the company, visit our Home Instead Senior Care website or to learn more about the company’s services link to our home care digital brochure.


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