CAREGiver of the Month - Sue

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Clients Dig the Food, Companionship
During Their Mealtime with Sue

To prepare a meal for a senior is to cater to one of his or her most basic human needs. It requires hard work and careful thought, and CAREGiver of the Month Sue McFarlane puts an emphasis and energy into meal preparation and presentation. Equally as important, Sue points out, sharing the mealtime with a client is also the best method of companionship.

“Meals are huge for seniors and are really more for building relationships because you do it over food. When we get together, a personal interaction and bonding develops that is impactful. One of my clients, for example, would ask about my boys and grandchildren at the dining room table, and I would ask about hers,” said Sue, who was honored in October by the award-winning Home Instead Senior Care® franchise of Birmingham. “Some clients’ meals require diet requirements. I prepare the meal specifically for the client and then be sure to bring something of my own so I can eat with the clients.”

Sue’s culinary skills have been noticed by one client and her family, who asked Sue to go a step further with sharing her yummy methods. “I am planning my second dinner event for the client, her best friend and other friends. It was a hit the first time, and it’s easy to do with a little bit of planning,” said Sue, whose meals are always homemade unless it’s impossible to do so.

“I try to stay away from microwave food preparation, and why not? It is not an inconvenience. I always make meals that can be frozen, thawed and heated if I am on vacation.”

Sue added: “In addition to being more nutritious, homemade food can be made to look more desirable. In cooking, presentation is everything. If you make the plate look amazing, the clients will enjoy their meals even more. I have made food platters where the food looks like flowers, or laid out in the shape of flowers or different recognizable shapes. I accent the food with spices and other flavor enhancers.”

Sue’s skills as a CAREGiver also include far more than meal preparation. One of Sue’s clients has shown incredible progress during her recovery from a brain injury. The client, who fell at her assisted living facility, moved in with family after the severe injury that left her unable to speak. Sue, working with a physical therapist, has achieved terrific results, family members and other observers said.

 “After a ‘getting-to-know-you’ period, we have been inseparable. We are close. We hold hands. At the start,” Sue explained, “she could say a word or two or maybe phrases that didn’t connect with what I would ask. I’d hear a lot of ‘I don’t know’ responses. Now she is starting to converse and express herself and tell me what she wants such as restaurants, menus and clothes. I encourage her to read the menu and tell the waitresses what she’d like. She’s been successful doing it, and it makes me teary-eyed.”

Sue also uses an activities book with pictures. “For an example, I pick out a beach scene with a woman who is wearing flip flops. I ask the client to identify what the woman is wearing. ‘Is it shoes, flip flops or boots?’ ” Sue said. “I also have a huge dry-erase board where I write such things as: ‘Sue loves you’ and the day of the week with a schedule of what we have planned.”

To further her client’s rehabilitation, Sue transports her client to her former care facility for socialization, since many of her client’s friends live there. “She was a big part of a current events class, actually leading the discussions, so I take her there,” Sue said. “Working with my client and helping her overcome the challenges are my passion.”

For such situations, Sue can draw from her experiences that stretch back 20 years, starting with her assistance with a close friend who suffered a stroke.

“I stepped in to take care of the close friend, who had suffered a stroke and had a pacemaker. He lived in a rural area with his brother who farmed and wanted my help. I told them, ‘OK, I will try it, but I will make no promises.’ From Day 1, I discovered I had a passion for helping people. I had the empathy, the desire, the compassion,” Sue said.

“It was a family effort. Our two sons, 5 and 6 at the time, always went with me. My husband also would go with us from time to time. In retrospect, that caregiving was modeling something good for our sons. They are people-persons who enjoy helping others, too.”

Sue added: “It was the root of my caregiving. After I took care of my friend for about a year, word got around and there was never an end to the private-duty caregiving that came my way. I never asked for the jobs. As far as family caregiving now, I am helping my 87-year-old mother who is in the earliest stage of dementia. She still drives short distances safely and lives alone.”

Later, Sue became a manager at a retail store, but she found that much of her happiness came from being a private-duty caregiver one day a week. After 12 years, she left the retail business in 2013 because of the stress and workload. “I was at a good point for a change,” Sue said. “I absolutely love caregiving. This is not just a job to me. When you have the Lord in your life and you are doing something that is pleasing to Him, you have riches beyond belief. The Lord has given me the tools to serve others. The office knows I love to have fun. I am dancing safely and slowly with clients during ‘Dancing with Stars.’ I make caregiving fun. I am laughing, smiling and having fun with my clients. Their smiles make my day.”

Sue said franchise owners Bert and Stephanie are the best bosses she’s had. “Beyond being awesome with clients, they are also awesome with their CAREGivers. There is a reason why they are one of the highest-rated businesses in Michigan.”

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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