Award-winning CAREGiver Joanne Haack had taken an extra day off. Who knew she would get into so much hot water with an 83-year-old client who had dementia?
“She really liked me, and we got along great,” Joanne recalled, “but she was so mad I had been gone longer than usual that when I returned, she would not talk to me for the first 30 minutes I was in the home.” All was soon forgiven, and the day moved along more smoothly. Joanne understood what her client was experiencing. Dementia is difficult, and Joanne knew it because two of her grandparents were beset by the disease during Joanne’s late-teen years.
“My client felt her life changing and couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” said Joanne, a CAREGiver of the Month for Home Instead Senior Care® of Livonia and Westland. “Mentally, it is the hardest place for a person to be in. She would say, ‘What is wrong with me?’ It is difficult for anyone who has dementia to comprehend what is happening, and things sometimes change quickly with cognitive function. It was heartbreaking to see her struggle, but I was there to help her and always kept my focus on assisting her. She was a beautiful person; all of my clients are.
“I took ownership of her situation. She told me I was her favorite, and that melted my heart and made me feel good about working through her challenges. I loved being with her, but it was good to have other CAREGivers who also worked with her. We all gave her our best, and we each had different strengths that played into helping her. We all wanted the best for her.”
Joanne helped with the client for about seven months until her unexpected death around Easter. “I was not with her at her death,” Joanne recalled. “Her passing was sad, but I also thought about the honorable life of self-sacrifice she lived and that she had passed into a better place, the best place she could be.
“I see life a whole lot differently now that I have been a CAREGiver because I see how my clients handle things emotionally. I tend to celebrate things a lot more now. I am less stressed. One of my current clients really got me to laugh by telling me, ‘Well, I am only 97, but I think I will be falling down more when I reach 98 because I will be much older.’ ”
She also has kind of kidded me by saying stuff like, ‘Well you might just not see me on Monday when you come back. I might be gone.’ I think it is half joking and half serious. Emotionally, she is in a good place and doesn’t fear what is ahead for her.”
Joanne also is in a good place as a CAREGiver of the Month, Human Resources Manager Patty Graff said. “In the 14 months Joanne has been with our franchise,” Patty said, “she has been very proactive with her clients and attentive to their needs. She has been observant and reported many issues with clients that prevented bigger concerns or catastrophes down the road. She’s one of our best.”
Even with her experiences with two grandparents who suffered from dementia, Joanne said she has been soaking in “a lot of information” as a CAREGiver. In 1988, Joanne earned a college degree in early childhood education and worked for three years before she and her husband started a family in 1991. She decided to look into senior care when she was searching for work in September 2013.
Joanne laughed when she said: “At 49, I am still figuring it out (life in general). I wanted to see if I could help out the elderly. I thought the best way was to start as a CAREGiver and see what it was all about. I found that it is really, really is rewarding. The training is great, but there is always that little doubt – at least for me – when I’d go out there for the first time. I think that’s true with any job. I’ve got the skills and training to do it successfully.
“When you care for someone, you figure it out if it doesn’t go exactly how you expect it to go. My confidence has continued to build with each day or challenge that I face and overcome, and I think that’s like life in general. It’s a little scary, you do it and move on and feel good that the client is happy. It’s a life lesson that I’ve tried to convey to our 13-year-old. Sure, things are scariest before you attempt them. It’s not easy to grow, but you’ve got to push yourself. The rewards are endless.”
Joanne said she is happy with Home Instead, her clients and the flexible scheduling that works hand in hand with her family’s needs. “I am having fun, and I like helping people,” she said. “I didn’t expect a CAREGiver of the Month honor because I just do what I do. I didn’t think it was that much better than what everyone else does.
“You do have to be in the right frame of mind to be a CAREGiver. By that, I mean you treat people like you would want to have your loved one treated. If you view your clients like you were taking care of your grandparents, it’s a pretty easy deal.”
Home Instead CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide a variety of non-medical services to help keep seniors independent. For inquiries about employment with Home Instead Senior Care, please call
(734) 525-5300 or email
LeeAnn Loveland. Home Instead also accepts
online CAREGiver applications.
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Each Home Instead Senior Care franchise is independently owned and operated.