After a month's time and exerting an immense amount of patience, CAREGiver of the Month Vickie Haviland won over a 92-year-old client and uncovered a wonderful sense of humor while establishing great relationships with him and his wife.
"Oh my gosh," Vickie recalled, "he was a tough one when I was assigned to him, after I joined Home Instead Senior Care® on March 23. I was the first CAREGiver to meet him, working the day shift with his 24/7 CAREGiver team. On occasion, he'd say, 'Are you still here? Why don't you go home?' or 'Isn't it time for you to leave?' " And Vickie would respond with, "not yet, not until 8 p.m." She said, "The client was ornery, and he would be the first to admit it."
The client had come home from a rehabilitation facility after he was hospitalized with a broken hip. He was adamant about wanting to remain as independent as possible. The challenges, which included using a walker all the time and not being able to drive his own car, put him in what seemed to be a perpetual state of negativity. But Vickie was just as insistent on a positive atmosphere while helping with personal care and clothes dressing, along with meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication reminders, errands and transportation.
"I have always been a positive and upbeat person because I believe life is too short to carry around negativity. I 'ban' negativity during my shift. I will say to the client and his wife in a lighthearted manner, 'Let's not talk in a negative way,' and will continually include positive words in our conversations. I also depend on my own sense of humor," said Vickie who used an online search to find owner Tyson Murphy's award-winning franchise that serves North Austin, Round Rock and Sun City after she had moved to the area last January from Michigan.
"I want to be the reason someone smiles. I am someone who is interested in him and what he has to say. For some, it is hard to break through the façade of crabbiness. But it is not the fault of the elderly when they get older and have aches and pains, as well as frustrations, that all of those things conspire to make them a little cranky. I do the absolute best I can, and when I leave, I know they are smiling when I walk out the door."
Vickie's smart phone is a focus of positive activity. Vickie used the device to search online for answers to the client's ongoing questions. "Let's Google this!" That, Vickie said, is one of the client's favorite phrases. The client jokingly remarked, "That 'Google' is sure a smart person." Among other things, the client asked Vickie to find the lyrics for a song he remembered singing as a youngster. The song is called "True Blue Bill."
"I found it, and he memorized it again," Vickie said. "Along with other songs, we would sing 'True Blue Bill' together." A folk and traditional song, "True Blue Bill" was written and composed in 1931 by Gene Autry, Frank Martin and George Rainey.
Vickie wasn't aware she had totally won over the client until she returned in June after a month's absence, when she spent all of May taking care of a sister who was being treated for cancer in California. "When I came back," Vickie said, "one of the other CAREGivers mentioned that the client and his wife would tell them I was one of their favorite. The couple emphatically wanted me back as one of their CAREGivers. I was happy and maybe a little surprised. I'm often with them five days a week because the client no longer requires 24/7 care at this time."
In addition to a positive attitude and a sense of humor, what other things drew the clients to Vickie?
"They became used to me and my system as I got used to their habits and way of life. I try to remain consistent with the daily routine that would work best for them. Consistency is important, not only with these clients but other clients as well. In the first five months, I tried cooking a different meal every day until I found out what they liked best. Their eating patterns are a little unusual – they get up later in the mornings. I help prepare breakfast, and then they won't eat again, until having their main meal, at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. When I leave at 5 p.m., they are on their own, having only a small meal or light snacks later in the evening. Some people have tried to make them three meals during their shifts, but I try not to rearrange their daily routine and keep a continuity for them."
Vickie is an experienced hand at caregiving. In the early 2000s, she worked at a group home for disabled adults for five years, then took a job at a day care center/work center for disabled adults, where she was a job coach and mentor for seven years. "I became a CNA in 2013 and went into home health care, not specifically with the elderly. It included any person who needed and qualified for in home health care," she explained.
For Vickie, no challenge is too big. When she wins the day, it is a sustained victory. "I am close to the clients with whom I work. They are very good people, as are all clients. I uncovered his great sense of humor and helped his wife's confidence. During the Thanksgiving holiday, I met his daughter from California. She hugged me before she left and said, 'Thank you for taking such good care of my dad. You are just like family.' "
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