It was 80 degrees, and CAREGiver of the Month Sandy Ward knew what to suggest to a dementia client who normally wants to continually work crossword puzzles: "Let's go outside and see if your garden is waking up from winter."
Sandy's words struck a chord and blossomed into a productive afternoon that involved a different set of senses, functions and brain activity than the ones her client would normally use. Even the client's daughter asked, "How were you able to get her outside?"
Sandy knew because she does her homework. She has 12 questions for clients, getting to know them as thoroughly as possible so that she understands their likes and dislikes. "Many of those questions trigger long-ago memories that are easy for most clients to recall," explained Sandy, who has worked for Home Instead Senior Care® of Birmingham since August 2010 and has assisted the client since October 2015.
Once Sandy and her client arrived at the garden, Sandy asked for the names of the various flowering plants. "I even asked her about the scarecrow in her garden that bears her name. She won't be able to garden because of her mobility and flexibility, but she can sit at the table and prepare plants so that I can plant them for her. I also found out she likes to sit outside in the sun. She calls it 'receiving free Vitamin D.' "
Sandy discovered that the client learned to ski in her 50s and was an award-winning skier, and she has the newspaper articles to prove it. "I learned everything about skiing that I could online so that I could carry on a conversation with her and prompt pleasant memories for her to share. I also asked about her childhood and heard stories about when she went back to college to get her degree. Those are all subjects she can remember and likes to talk about," Sandy said.
"She is quite a lady. She likes to watch Jeopardy and can answer most of the questions. I also found out she likes to organize things such as the dishes in the dishwasher and has a particular way of folding clothes that she likes to show. Those are things she can still do, so I ask for her assistance if she feels up to it. It generates the feeling of helping and independence. It is good for interaction and motor skills."
Sandy, who saw a Home Instead Senior Care advertisement on a newsstand about six years ago that prompted her to apply for the job, has nearly 30 years of experience in senior care and the caregiving field, including work in independent/assisted living facilities, hospitals and hospice.
Sandy's first senior-care experience came in 1988 as a favor to one of her aunts, who was performing private-duty tasks at an independent/assisted care facility. "She asked me to help her one Saturday with four or five of her clients so she could tend to something else. She gave me the rundown of all of the various things to do and told me how to do it," Sandy recalled.
"When the eight hours were over, I had decided I liked it, and that's what I told her. After that, she came by the house every Saturday, picked me up and had me work the 8 a.m.-to-4 p.m. shift. I began to get to know the residents, and it was fulfilling."
Sadly, Sandy's aunt died of breast cancer at age 38 in 1993. "I continued on with the work. My skills and training originally came from her. Being a CAREGiver and doing this work often reminds me of my aunt," Sandy said.
Sandy's goal is to be a registered nurse, and she is working toward that at a college. Sandy has a bachelor's degree in gerontology from Madonna University in Livonia. "That is where I learned that bringing up pleasant memories can trigger positive responses," Sandy said, "but you've got to do the digging to learn about your clients. Home Instead Senior Care's flexibility with hours is helping me toward this goal. I like Home Instead Senior Care a lot. It's a good company."
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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