Bobbie Smith – National CAREGiver of the Year 2012

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Bobbie Smith heard destiny calling when she was just a child. Those days, she was helping her grandparents care for the sick and the elderly, and Bobbie was touched with a God-inspired mission to serve others.

Her grandfather identified her special qualities when she was assisting the ill and dying in their Mississippi home. "My grandfather said he was proud of me because some adults could not do the work that I was doing. He said God had ordained me to do this," Bobbie noted. Do your job well, he said. It might just be the way you make a living.

"My grandparents gave me the best lesson in caregiving," she added. Love what you're doing and you'll never work a day in your life, Grandma told me.

"So here I am at Home Instead Senior Care® and have been since October 2009. I can make a difference between a smile and a frown. One client even asked me to sing at his funeral. I have quite a few extended families. I always hope my experience and passion will help somebody."

Bobbie was honored as 2012 Mary Steibel CAREGiver of the Year for her many positive caregiving traits, including humor, warmth, spirituality, calmness and a take-charge attitude. She was recognized, in particular, for helping a 91-year-old senior adapt to his new surroundings in a care community after moving to the New Orleans area. "My brother-in-law was very angry when he moved to New Orleans," noted the client's family member. "I saw this adorable woman come in and thought, There is no way she's going to survive. Bobbie had the situation turned around in days. She'll do anything to help, and she's demonstrated that."

Her senior client agreed. "I was more than lucky to have fallen into the position where I would meet her."

That's not to say winning the client over was easy. "At first he refused to get out of bed," Bobbie said. "I asked him if I could talk, and he said, Talk, lady. I explained why I was there and that I would be his eyes. From the client journal, I knew he liked singing. So while I was going to the elevator I started singing, Let Me Call You Sweetheart. He took the song from me and then he said to me, You're OK, and I smiled and said, Thank you.

"He told me he had been a photographer and singer. I called the contemporary arts center, and they directed me to a group of retired photographers that meets weekly. He is now is active with them and lectures for them. He also now sings at every event at the facility. I also have helped him to become reacquainted with friends and relatives."

Bobbie says she regularly strives to enhance the lives of older adults much like she has with her 91-year-old client. "I try to encourage my clients to stay as active as possible, and I work hard to make a positive difference in their lives," said Bobbie, a senior herself. "I am happy and feel renewed when I see their progress . . . I thank God each morning for helping me to make a difference in their lives."

Lisa Rabito, owner of the Metairie Home Instead Senior Care office that employs Bobbie, said her daily goal is simple – to bring happiness to each client whose life she touches and to make a difference. "And make a difference she does," Lisa said. "She wears our motto, To us, it's personal® very well."

Lisa described a typical day for Bobbie: "Knowing that one of her clients, who suffers from anxiety, is in the hospital, Bobbie has rearranged her schedule and plans to spend the night with her. Mrs. D is already less anxious, just knowing that Bobbie will be there with her. She has a way of calming her down, making her feel at peace. In addition, Bobbie plans to spend some time with Mrs. D's special-needs son, throwing a party for him before she heads to the hospital. She is amazing, always thinking about how she can better the lives of her clients and their families. Bobbie is a true leader with a caring heart of service."

Bobbie agreed that the job is, indeed, personal to her. "It is God who gives me strength as a CAREGiver. To God be the glory. I strive to enhance the quality of life for seniors. I try to encourage them to stay as active as possible, and I work hard to make a positive difference in their lives. I am happy and feel renewed when I see their progress,'' she said.

"I thank God each morning for helping me to make a good difference in their lives by offering support, a tasty meal, good conversation or simply just listening. It gives me joy to be with a client even through death because it gives me an opportunity to give comfort and a sense of peace through God's love. I assure them that they are loved and not alone. Each day God gives me new strength, so I fly like an eagle. My grandmother was right: Working is easy when you love what you do."

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