CAREGiver of the Year - John


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John’s Goal: Be Useful as Well as ‘Ornamental’

CAREGiver of the Year John Lawrence isn’t just another ruggedly handsome face from the state of Maine, where he grew up. His mother, who mixed Quaker wit and wisdom while shaping his character, made sure of that long ago.

John has never forgotten one precept that was often repeated. “My mother used to say, ‘You can be useful as well as ornamental,’ usually when she wanted my sister or me to do the dishes,” said John, who has worked for Home Instead Senior Care® of Iredell and Alexander Counties since Oct. 27, 2012. “Mom’s aphorism probably oriented my sister and me toward careers in helping professions. Both of us became educators, and my sister also was a Girl Scout leader and an EMT. Along the way, I was a speech therapist and a mental health counselor.”

His mother’s steadfast family caregiving obviously was a strong lifelong influence. John moved from Waterville, Maine, about four years ago to help his son raise a daughter in Troutman, about 10 miles south of Statesville. After making the move, John also joined Home Instead Senior Care “to get off the couch” while his granddaughter was in school.

John hadn’t had to concentrate his family caregiving on seniors because his mother was in fairly good health until just before she died at age 89 in 2006. His mother, the youngest of 12 children, set a strong example. “She had a big heart,” John said, “and we took in her mother-in-law when I was 4½. It was at that point when I got to see what life was like for seniors because Grandma had physical problems and depended on us. She lived for 16 more years before passing away. I learned a lot of history from Grandma, including a story about how she plowed her garden with a team of oxen when she was young.” 

With that compassion etched into his heart, John set out to help others. After his second year of college, John worked in the summer of 1966 with profoundly mentally challenged people.

In 1968, John graduated from college with a major in speech therapy. “In Maine,” he said, “you also had to be a certified teacher to be a speech therapist, so I was in the education field. I was in speech therapy for 24 years. I also got my master’s degree in counseling. As a result, I was employed in social work for 16 years.”

John’s foray into senior care came unexpectedly. “I suffered the first of two heart attacks in 2006 and the second one in 2011, when my granddaughter, then 10 years old, saved my life by calling 911. After that second heart attack, I decided to do more than watch TV,” John said. “Home Instead had a tent at the Carolina Balloon Fest, a hot-air balloon festival in Statesville, and I stopped and asked, ‘Do you hire old people to take care of old people?’ I was 67 then.”

The CAREGiver of the Year feels fulfilled, and he didn’t have to contemplate long to reveal a philosophy about what he does. “It goes back to my mother’s words of being useful as well as being ornamental. I try to meet my clients’ basic needs and make their lives better. It is just the basics: Keep them safe, clean and provide companionship,” John said. “Companionship is understated in the minds of many people, but it makes a big difference.”

John will be 70 next March, and he was asked to look into a crystal ball, as if there were one.

“What’s next? I am not exactly sure, and you never know. When my granddaughter gets her driver’s license, the need for me to provide transportation will probably diminish. She will be 15 in February. My wife and I have been married 44 years, and we might resume traveling, especially since she is from the Philippines. I have not been there for five years,” John said. “We have these images of things we could do there – maybe set up an adult day care in the Philippines or perhaps a nursing home.

“There was a generation of Filipino caregivers who went out into the world and took care of people and now they are retiring and returning to the Philippines. They will need someone to take care of them. Maybe it will be my wife, one of her sisters (a doctor) and me. My wife has worked as an activities director at a nursing home. I like to continually meet new people and get to know their stories. I like to write about these experiences, too. That could be part of it.”

One thing is for sure: John won’t settle into an “ornamental” life.

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​​.​​

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