Thirty years ago, Sandra Chambers admitted, there probably was a zero chance of her working in senior care, let alone being honored as CAREGiver of the Month at Home Instead Senior Care® of Iredell and Alexander Counties in Statesville as she was in April 2016.
But Sandra always has had a big heart. She couldn't resist taking care of family members – a lot of them, including her late mother. "I am so glad my mother lived long enough to see how things had turned around for me. I am much more patient and more compassionate than I was 30 years ago, and that is because of God working on my heart," Sandra said. "God prepared me long ago to do my job. All of my family caregiving has put me in position to do this, and God continues to work in my life through my job with Home Instead Senior Care."
In fact, on difficult days with her longtime 91-year-old client, Sandra turns to her faith. "The only way to handle a challenging situation is to remember I serve a loving and caring God who wants me to help people no matter what goes on. God is working on me from the inside out, so I use patience, compassion, redirection, laughter, smiles, humor – all those things," Sandra said.
"In the final analysis, my client and I have more than just 'a working relationship.' It is a real relationship with a strong bond. Was it easy to get to this point? No, because we had to learn about each other. Is she feisty, headstrong and a pistol, and has she rejected others? Yes, but we learned to laugh at each other."
With spring in full bloom, Sandra is looking forward to getting her client outside. "When the weather is good, I get her into her wheelchair and walk her up the street. Before we go, she'll say, 'Where are we going today, Sugar?' Once I pushed her to a yard sale. She wanted to stay and talk to people, so we were there for a while. The next day, she asked me, 'When are we going to do that again?' That was one short-term memory she did not lose," Sandra said.
Sandra continues to be a family caregiver, carrying the major load of helping an aunt and her father. Sandra also helped another aunt before she died in July 2015. Her introduction to senior care came years ago after she moved back to Statesville from Chapel Hill to help a grandmother, who was left partially paralyzed after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. At nearly the same time, an aunt who had been taking care of the grandmother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
She feels a responsibility and a loyalty to her client and Home Instead Senior Care. "I love working for Home Instead. I have never worked at a place that has been so adamant about being fair to its employees. It is good to know that the ownership and staff have a faith-based culture," Sandra said.
"They are all about promoting family values. They are calming and give me a peace of mind about doing my job. They are flexible with hours and shifts. When I can't make it because I don't feel well enough, they find someone to cover. They are worried about their employees as much as they are about their clients. There is a good balance."
Sandra will never forget how Human Resources and Retention Coordinator Lori McKay believed in her during a recruiting trip to Sandra's school while she was finishing CNA classroom and clinical work in the spring of 2012. "Lori was insistent on getting together with her in the office when I was done and had my license," Sandra said. "It was a blessing from God."
Sandra is glad she found a job that aligns with her values. "Before I became a CNA, I had worked in a situation where the seniors were not treated well, and it made me angry. I'd point it out, and nothing would ever get done. God closed the door for me there and eventually opened it for me at Home Instead," said Sandra, a member of Highland Acres Church of Christ, where she volunteers and teaches a Bible class on Wednesdays.
"Home Instead is so beautiful, and I can see God's hand working through them. Having that kind of setting makes a huge difference for employees, clients and their families."
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