It’s no surprise Tommacena Evangeline Douglas is an evangelist at her church in Mooresville. The CAREGiver of the Year’s faith has carried her through the toughest of times while working for Home Instead Senior Care® of Iredell and Alexander Counties.Since joining the award-winning Statesville franchise owned by Tracey and Creighton Gibson in November 2011, Tommacena has been with four clients who passed away. “She was the right person at those times and in other difficult situations,” Human Resources Manager Lori McKay said. “Tommacena provided unwavering comfort, support and companionship to those clients and their grieving families. “Tommacena is a person of strong faith. She is concerned for clients and their families spiritually and emotionally as well as meeting the physical needs with things such as personal care, light housekeeping, medication reminders, meal preparation and transportation and errands. You could say she is ‘highly tenured’ and we think very highly of her and her abilities.”During the process of determining the CAREGiver of the Year, office staff considered its observations as well as comments from clients and their family members to decide that Tommacena most strongly represented the Home Instead Senior Care principles: “Build Trust, Take the Lead and Share Your Heart.”When discussing building trust, Lori first mentioned Tommacena’s wonderfully infectious laugh and positive attitude. “She also is deft and discreet in the way she handles delicate situations. She is straightforward and honest, but in a kind and compassionate way. There is no contentiousness in her,” Lori said. “She takes the lead by being super organized, and her strong faith also allows her to take the lead with a strong presence and confidence that says, ‘Everything will be OK. We are going to get through this together.’ ” As far as sharing her heart, Tommacena explains it best. “I want to bring joy to my clients, so I go all out for them. If I can be of service, I will help. I curl a client’s hair on Friday morning before I leave for the weekend so she’ll look good for church because it’s important to her. I do what I can because I love what I do. Because I embrace my clients as family, it is hard not to get close to them. I could be a volunteer and be content with serving seniors. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing or there’s no point.” Sharing her faith as well as her tears is part of the experience of losing clients. “God has given me the gift of understanding death. I understand what has happened because I believe God takes control. I try to relate a feeling of peace that can come only through God, who provides us with the assurance that a family’s loved one is no longer suffering nor in pain,” Tommacena said. Tommacena played a role in a reconciliation that involved an estranged son who returned to his mother and family, making peace before she died. “His mother’s dire condition brought him back. He and I got to talking, and he said he had walked away from God and his family a long time ago. I encouraged him to speak to her. He did, and a tear fell out of her eye. He asked me if his mother could hear him despite her condition. I said, ‘Yes.’ Not long after that, she passed away,” Tommacena recalled. “He calls me on occasion and chats. We have a bond now because of his mother. My mother died in 2014. I told him I believe both of our moms are watching us.” Lori added: “Tommacena facilitated the repair of those relationships and healing, and it meant quite a lot to the client. It was not something required of her, but she saw the opportunity and used the right words. She never pushes any of her beliefs on clients or family members, but for those who have faith and wish to practice it, she is encouraging.” Tommacena, who is raising three daughters and helps take care of an autistic grandson, works overnight shifts for Home Instead Senior Care. “My family is important,” she said, “and that is why I take a night shift.” She has church duties, including occasional sermon messages, on Wednesday nights and Saturdays at Mt. Moriah Holiness church. Tommacena’s humor also is on display with a Christian comedy act – she has been described by some as a “female Tyler Perry.” Her pseudo character is “Sister Honeydo,” which has delighted many families.Family is the reason for Tommacena’s return to North Carolina from Florida, where she lived for 11 years and worked in senior care while also home-schooling her daughters. “I am a North Carolina native who moved back five years ago to help take care of my mother,” Tommacena explained. “I understand dementia because of my professional senior-care experience, and my mother’s dementia was becoming frustrating for some family. We all loved her very much.”Senior care admittedly wasn’t Tommacena’s first vocational choice. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, and she had hoped to become a probation officer. “I wanted to help people that way, but I could not find a job. I asked God why, and He revealed He wanted me in senior care and had tried repeatedly to tell me. I am a modern-day Jonah who had not honored what God wanted me to do. Now I understand and enjoy being in His will,” she added.If self-nomination were part of the CAREGiver of the Year process, Tommacena never would have been considered. “Tommacena is very humble,” Lori said. “She deserves a lot of credit for enhancing the lives of her clients but deflects the credit. She has the true heart of a servant.”
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