When a senior experiences a sudden unexpected surge of improved health after a lengthy decline, people often brace for an impending death. The well-documented occurrence is known as "the pre-death rally" or "the last hurrah."
CAREGiver of the Month Cathy Hebel has been involved in a "rally" that has lasted since December 2016. By now, it could be considered a rebound, and Cathy deserves credit for the comeback, the 88-year-old dementia client's daughter contends. Following a hospitalization, the client spent two tumultuous days in a hospice facility before her daughter brought her home. That allowed Cathy to use her expertise and skill on behalf of the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise that serves Iredell and Alexander Counties.
Cathy has been the client's only CAREGiver and has displayed the Home Instead Senior Care principles of "Build Trust, Take the Lead and Share Your Heart" as a formula for senior-care success. Cathy loves challenges, and she's got an especially big heart for those who lack a support system.
"The client still is on hospice, but that might end because of her big turnaround. Before her hospitalization, she wasn't eating and drinking much. The hospice facility did not set right with her, so that was no help. There was a feeling of desperation," Cathy admitted.
Cathy strongly suggested a personal-care measure and began hydrating and feeding the client, who surprisingly started eating and drinking. Then Cathy regularly assisted her client as she gently encouraged her to get out of bed. When she began using her walker again, it was a startling development. As trust was built, the client has complied with requests from Cathy, something she often refuses to do for family.
The client's daughter has said, "If it wasn't for Cathy, Mom would have to be in a nursing home." For her part, Cathy said: "Having a CAREGiver is much better than seeing someone withering away in a nursing home. In addition to helping them, I try to keep the clients as independent as I can. A client might take 20 minutes to put on socks and shoes, and that is OK. They don't want you hovering over them, so I stay nearby but don't appear to hover."
In addition to assisting the client, Cathy's shifts become respite time for her client's daughter, who lives with her mother. "The daughter needs a break. Her mom is constantly asking questions, and it sometimes is repetitive. I have been asked how I deal with it, and I explain that I treat the client like a good friend or family member and understand the dementia is causing the behavior. Sometimes, behaviors can push family members to their last nerve," Cathy said.
It might seem as if nothing bothers Cathy, who has been through many tragic circumstances. As a family caregiver, she took care of her grandmother, father and husband before each one died of cancer. She also endured the loss of a young granddaughter.
"I helped my father and grandmother in 1996, and I stayed with them until they passed. It was hard, but I feel everything is given as a gift from God. After they died, I went to work at an assisted living facility for four years before I was married in 2004," Cathy explained. "Then, my husband was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a brain cancer, and needed 24/7 care, which I provided before he died Dec. 6, 2015. As horrible as it was, I found a silver lining to it. The doctors said he could have become combative and angry because of the cancer, but he never did. That part of it was a blessing. It was a difficult year, but it could have been much harder."
Following her husband's death, Cathy said to herself, "OK, I've got to do something," and thought, "I am out of work. Who will give me a chance?" One of her daughters, who works for Home Instead Senior Care in Statesville, said: "Mom, you should try Home Instead Senior Care. You're great with people, and you like to help others. You care about them."
On Dec. 28, 2015, Cathy started with the award-winning franchise owned by Tracey and Creighton Gibson. "I love my job – it is an important to have a job you love – and I feel this is my gift God has given me. I don't consider it work," Cathy said. "I am doing something with my life. I like being a blessing and a giver. I don't know how you could not get attached to a client."
Asked what warms her heart about the job, Cathy said, "The clients anticipate my arrival. I love it when they see me and their faces light up. They truly love me, and they consider me to be part of their family. We have that kind of bond. I feel I bring them joy. They also feel secure with me, knowing I will take care of every need they have. They are not scared. I often hear, 'Cathy is here with me now,' and it makes me feel good."
Being a CAREGiver also melds with her faith. "My belief system is important to me and always has been. I grew up in the faith because my father was a pastor," said the native of Chadbourn, North Carolina. That faith obviously has been tested, and Cathy has heard these kinds of questions: "You've lost so many people close to you, how can you continue to have your faith? How can you not be angry?"
"No matter how dark it gets to be, there's got to be a silver lining. I am not mad. My loved ones are not suffering anymore," said Cathy who points to her favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31.
"But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint."
All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about CAREGiver employment, please apply online call 704-924-9909. For further information visit Home Instead Senior Care.
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.