CAREGiver of the Month Mary C.

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Honored CAREGiver Loves Mixture of Work, Fun

Doing what's necessary. Generating friendships. Earning trust. … And getting the lowdown on movie plots and creating an in-house spa atmosphere.

Award-winning CAREGiver Mary Collins has done it all for the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise of Livonia and Westland. Ask the Detroit resident how she feels about her job, and she simply says, "I love it."

"I like the fact that I am helping out people. It feels good," said Mary, who joined the franchise in December 2011. "People depend on me. I make friends. There's a trust that builds. I share secrets with them, and they share their secrets with me.

"My clients look forward to renewing our friendship every time I walk in the door. I would want this type of help if I were a senior. My clients and I absolutely love each other. We have grown together. 'We want just Mary' - I have heard that. Once you grow into a relationship with your clients, it's hard to have someone else come in and help them."

The CAREGiver of the Month, who also serves as a family caregiver for an uncle 15 to 25 hours a week, has savored many enjoyable experiences with her clients. For instance:

  • One client loves black-and-white movies. Every time I go there, he wants to watch them and give me play-by-play of what's going on in each scene. We work out a deal where I get all my work done in his home, and then I'll take in the movie and play-by-play." With a bit of a giggle, she adds: "I have actually grown to like the movies. He loves John Wayne, so I have seen a lot of John Wayne movies."
  • For another client, 82, Wednesday is In-House Spa Day at the client's home. "We paint each other's fingernails, and I wash and curl her hair. She likes to make lemonade, and it is good. We're like a couple of girls who are sitting around, talking and gossiping. She talks about the clothes and hairdos she had when she was younger. She tells me, 'I am just a young soul trapped in an old body.' "

Some clients will speak their minds. "For me," Mary said, "it feels good to be trusted so much that they tell you everything. Sometimes I think their families don't know them as well as I do.

"One client liked to travel. She used to take her old clothes on trips and drop them off at charity places and then she would buy new clothes while she was at her destination city. She was a teacher who never married nor had kids and retired early."

Mary averages between 40 and 60 hours a week, depending on fill-in shifts. She praises franchise owner Glenna Yaroch and her staff for everything from training to CAREGiver job recognition. "The office has honored me - and other CAREGivers - with gifts, holiday cards, birthday cards. It feels good to work hard and be recognized for it. They try to honor CAREGivers with a birthday breakfast or dinner," Mary pointed out.

"Training is good, and it is hands-on. They have us split up enough so that there aren't too many or too few CAREGivers in a session. What is also good is that they listen to the CAREGivers. The training is required and ongoing to keep your job, which is a good idea. A lot of the training is about safety issues in dealing with the client. It does improve the quality of caregiving."

Training is great, Mary said, but she emphasized that caregiving must come naturally.

"Being a friend also can come naturally," she said. "You have to be open-minded about listening to people when you are their companion. All the training in the world can't teach you to be friendly if that's not in your nature. Caregiving is all about heart and compassion, and everything basically leads from that."


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