The Vera Brooks stories are too numerous to be completely documented. Several of them – both funny and serious – about the CAREGiver of the Year are so rich that it’s too hard to resist retelling.From Quality Relations Specialist Corie Savary:“One of Vera’s regular clients, Ms. D, lives in an assisted living facility where another of our clients, Ms. G, lives. The clients are friends and eat lunch together every day. Vera had a fill-in shift with Ms. G, and she loved Vera so much that she wanted her to come more often. Ms. G even mentioned it to Ms. D, and they jokingly fought over Vera all the time after that. Ms. D would say Vera was her CAREGiver, and Ms. G would say Mrs. D needed to share Vera.” Another story from Corie:“Most of Vera’s clients have a form of dementia, and one of them does not want to bathe. Vera joyfully tries to get her to take a bath every day, knowing that she will get to bathe her at least two of the five tries during the week. Vera doesn’t let the other days discourage her.” From Director of Quality Care Debe Kincl: “Vera was leaving a client and noticed that she wasn’t herself, clearly dizzy and disorientated. Vera didn’t want to leave her, but had another client to visit. Vera alerted the client’s first contact and our office. Then before Vera left, she made sure the client had her alert system on and placed the phone next to her until the family could arrive. Vera also notified the assisted living facility’s front desk to make sure they would check on her. This is just one example of Vera going the extra mile for her client.”Vera herself had a story worth noting:“A client turned to me and quietly said, ‘I don’t understand why God sent you to help me, Vera. You’re so good to me, no matter how nasty I am.’ Without hesitation, I told the client, ‘God sends good people to help good people.’ I keep my clients’ behavior in perspective. I know when that client doesn’t feel good. I appreciated her apology. I told her, ‘No matter what happens, I will still be here for you and your husband.’ ”Magnanimous. Compassionate. Forbearing. Forgiving. Those words – and many more – describe the outstanding CAREGiver at the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise in Metairie that serves New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. “Everyone who shares difficult moments also has a soft spot somewhere,” Vera said in a sympathetic tone. “I just work hard to find it. I take pride in being sent to handle the most difficult ones and trying to win them over. “You can’t be offended at anything you hear. There’s a reason for it – they don’t feel well or are unhappy that they aren’t in the same condition they were in 20 or 30 years ago. I keep smiling and let the bad things roll off. After a while, their mood usually changes and they calm down.”Franchise Owner Lisa Rabito confirmed that Vera has just the right touch. “Vera has an incredibly kind demeanor in any situation, even when challenging family members get involved with their senior loved ones’ care,” Lisa said. “She’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the clients are well taken care of – any kind of cleaning that’s necessary, even caring for the beloved family dog that is very old. And Vera does everything with a genuine smile on her face!” When Quality Relations Specialist Corie was asked what set Vera apart from other CAREGivers, she said: “I have never seen Vera without a smile. She can be having a hard day with a client, and you would never know it. She always carries a sense of joy in everything she does. During multiple times with multiple families and clients, Vera has been called their ‘best-ever CAREGiver.’ ” Corie also pointed out: “Vera juggles life’s day-to-day challenges of taking care of her family, going to her regular clients, and taking last-minute fill-in shifts. Vera has a very kind and gentle spirit. She exudes grace and compassion to everyone with whom she touches or sees.” Of course, Vera isn’t always put in the position of having to “grin and bear it” with a client. One of her late clients called Vera “Goody.” Sadly for Vera, she wasn’t with the client when she passed away on a Saturday. When the client told her daughter that she “was ready to go,” she said she had hoped to tell Vera goodbye. But Vera wouldn’t have repeated “goodbye” if she had been there. “I would have told her, ‘I’ll see you later,’ ” said Vera, a woman of deep faith. A 97-year-old client, an Air Force pilot for 26 years, regales Vera with his action-filled stories that include whiteouts and floods in Alaska. “He has told me several times, ‘If I had the money, I would send you on a cruise to Alaska.’ He’s a sharp guy,” she said. “Before I leave every day at 3, I make sure he and his wife have something hot to eat at 6.”It is obvious that Vera is in high demand for any client who knows her. And it’s for more than light housekeeping, medication reminders, meal preparation, transportation and errands. Vera is “an intent listener” who provides the best of companionship.“I like to get them to reminisce about their past days, days that hold more pleasant memories for them, because it tends to calm them down. They need an ear, someone to listen,” Vera explained. “If a client starts a conversation at 2:30 p.m. and is still talking when my shift ends at 3 p.m., I will clock out, but will stay until the client is completely done talking. Why interrupt them and then leave? I never stop them from talking, regardless of what time it is.”She admits to having a passion for her job. “I love it. It makes my day to help someone,” said Vera, who joined Home Instead in August 2012. She was working in private-duty care, commuting from New Orleans to Baton Rouge nearly every day for three years, when a friend who worked for Home Instead recommended the company. “Vera is very reliable and loved by her clients. She has four regular clients, but she’s also very flexible in responding to our requests for fill-in shifts,” said Fay Kelting, the franchise’s CAREGiver development specialist.The number of Vera’s extended family members grew exponentially when she joined Home Instead. She considers clients and staff to be her family. “Home Instead is family. They have open hearts and open ears in the office. Anything I need, any problem I have, I know I can pick up the phone and call,” Vera said. “Whoever answers can help me or direct me to someone who can help me. “The thing that makes me feel good is that people are starting to ask for me by name after I’ve filled in to help them once. I try to please everybody and go if I can when the office calls.” In conclusion, Director of Quality Care Debe likes the fact that Vera’s personal motto matches the Home Instead Senior Care credo: “To Vera, it is personal. Vera knows her clients – good days and bad – and knows when a bad day calls for more than understanding.”
Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.
Each Home Instead Senior Care franchise is independently owned and operated.