Darla Corah laughs easily. She has a calm, soothing voice. Darla speaks with wisdom and can chat about any subject. She's a people person who is interested in others and wants to get to know them better. Before long, she's a friend.
Darla already may have possessed the Home Instead Senior Care® principles of "Build Trust, Take the Lead and Share Your Heart" long before she joined the award-winning franchise in Statesville that serves Iredell and Alexander Counties in January 2007. For the second time in her Home Instead Senior Care career, Darla has been honored as CAREGiver of the Month.When Darla was cleaning nursing-home rooms long ago, she chatted with residents and got to know some of them well. Sometimes the CNAs would seek out Darla with this request: "We cannot calm down a resident who has dementia. Could you stop what you're doing and give it a try?" Darla, knowing she had created relationships by building trust, taking the lead and sharing her heart, never said no.
Referring to her winsome ways with dementia clients, Darla said: "I have found over time it is the tone of voice that wins the day. A good way to calm someone is with a low tone of voice and slow cadence. Do not order them to do this or that. Another way to calm someone is to take walks with them. Sometimes, you have to step away from a situation and then come back and refocus the client."
During her nearly 11 years with the Home Instead Senior Care franchise owned by Tracey and Creighton Gibson, it is no surprise that most of Darla's assignments have been with dementia clients and sometimes with hospice clients. Darla explained:
"You have to understand that dementia behavior is not a true reflection of the person, but rather a result of the disease. Sometimes you can see glimpses of their true personality. They are like other clients in a sense I try to keep them as independent as possible but safe above all. You don't figuratively 'sit them in a corner by themselves' and leave them alone like you sometimes will see at facilities. Often, dementia clients have no other health problems, so you can take walks with them or work with them in other activities that involve mobility."
Darla added: "I have been called in to assist clients and their families during end-of-life situations. It gives me peace to know I can help them on their journey from this life to the next one. In my first three years with Home Instead Senior Care, all three of my regular clients passed away because of declining health. I told the office, 'Wait a minute, I am losing my noodle.' It is comforting to know you are helping the clients, but it can take a toll when they die or go to a facility. I've learned to cope; I develop bonds and never want to give them up."
Darla has assisted her current regular client for the past seven years. "I am the only regular CAREGiver he's had," said Darla, referring to the 93-year-old widower. "His wife was a client first. She had Parkinson's and dementia, and she went to a nursing home. One day when I was looking in on her, she talked for the first time in a long while and told me, 'You must take me home right now.' I sensed that's where she wanted to spend her final days, so I told her daughters, and they made it happen. A week later, she passed away. My client and I talk about his late wife quite often."
Among their experiences are car trips to see the autumn tree colors and photo album viewing. "The albums help his memory, and he can tell me what he was doing," Darla said. "We talk about his World War II experiences, when he was in the Navy. He's got a lot of pictures of troop landings. He told me about the surrender of Japanese military on an island. With many clients, I've heard it all. They'll tell their stories and you immediately know you are listening to a living history book. You think, 'Wow – so that's what they had to do to survive!' "
All in all, Darla is glad that a friend from Nashville, Tennessee, mentioned Home Instead. The friend, a part-time CAREGiver, said: "You've got to do this. It is an awesome job." About a year after Darla joined the Statesville franchise, she was first honored as CAREGiver of the Month.
Darla's daughter, who left the military more than five years ago, closely examined her mother's profession when her service to America ended and she was pondering her next career. "I encouraged her to do something like my job because I know her heart. Not everyone is cut out for this, but I knew she was. She first became a CNA and enjoyed it. Five years later, she's a registered nurse who has a great hospital job in Charlotte. We both enjoy helping others."
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.