In many respects, 2015 was an unusually challenging year for Mary K., who was honored in December for the second time in 15 months as CAREGiver of the Month at Home Instead Senior Care® Livonia. Mary insists it has been a year of personal growth, despite her sorrow, and the cascade of emotions related to losing her mother and a client.
Her mother's long battle with dementia ended May 23, when Mary was the only family member with her mother that day. "I was numb. I don't remember much about the day," Mary admitted. "I said to myself, 'I have to keep going.' It was very draining, but God was in control.
"Thinking of Mom and always wanting to give her my best, that's what I want to do for my clients more than ever. There has been a transfer of emotions. My faith runs deep, and I draw on my beliefs to give my people the best, no matter what is happening. When there are down times, I tell them God can turn it around, not to give up hope."
When trying to encourage her mother, Mary drew on a Scripture that says, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Mary comforts and compassionately exhorts her clients in the same way. "I show them my heart," she said. "I would like to see my clients try to live on without fear or regrets. There was no remorse by the time Mom passed – we both had forgiven each other for any problems or divisions.
"I feel only good memories remained, and that's what I want to encourage my clients to feel, too. I tell them, 'Let's reminisce about the good times with your family and friends.' "
Franchise owner Glenna Yaroch's office staff has been sympathetic to Mary's challenges and those of other CAREGivers when problem arise. "They knew what was happening, and they had my shifts covered during the time of the funeral," Mary said. "I am thankful for them. They have been understanding and helpful."
Mary realizes that sadness creeps into the lives of her clients because both of them also lost loved ones in 2015. "You cannot deny it – sorrow is to be expected. Sometimes it sneaks up on you," Mary said. "Around Dec. 23, I felt a heaviness that I could not explain – then I looked at the calendar and realized it was the seven-month anniversary of Mom's passing. Whether they actually are aware of it or not, the same thing happens with my clients."
One of Mary's clients, an 88-year-old widow, lost a son last summer. Mary has assisted the client for nearly four years, and has been a source of comfort for her. "She is very sharp, very talkative and watches TV. She comments on the things she sees on TV," Mary said. "She loves the game shows such as 'The Price Is Right,' 'Let's Make a Deal' and 'Family Feud.' She loves Steve Harvey. She knows what she wants, and I keep up with her to keep her safe. I just go with the flow. She is engaged in life."
Another client, who turned 97 on Christmas Day, lost an 87-year-old brother who lived with her and also was one of Mary's clients.
"Her brother died Dec.12 after an illness that had lingered since late summer. She is calmer and is a strong person, but she still has some weepy moments," Mary said. "They would sit at the dining room table and tell each other, 'I love you,' and, 'Don't forget to say your prayers!' I would have tears in my eyes because they had done that since they were children. The last time they saw each other was at Thanksgiving."
Asked how Mary helps the client, she said, "We play a lot of rummy. She loves it, and we carry on a continuous conversation while we're playing. She loves to laugh, loves God and loves to remind you that we are all blessed in one way or another. She's fun to be around."
Despite the tests of 2015 for Mary and her clients, she said she starts each shift in the same way she always has: "I always pray when I pull into the driveway."
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.