From Minestra di Piselli to their Roman Catholic faith and many other commonalities, award-winning CAREGiver Lillian "Jessica" Baker and her first client immediately hit it off and shared a special bond for nearly a year. When their time together ended on Good Friday in 2014 because her client was moving to a nursing home, they hugged and cried. The client's daughter also shed tears during the emotional farewell.
"We felt like we were part of the same family, and it was tough to see it end," said Jessica, a CAREGiver of the Month for the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise that serves Houston, Bellaire, Missouri City and Sugar Land. "As a general rule, senior-care workers are told, 'Don't get attached to the person for whom you are assisting.' I still get attached, and I don't know how you can't. You're in the wrong business if you don't feel a bond with your client."
Jessica's former client moved into a Beaumont nursing home that her son manages. Jessica stays in touch with her ex-client's daughter, so Jessica keeps updated on her friend. "I know she asks about me," Jessica added.
"Faith was a big thing we had in common because she liked to talk about her Catholic faith, and we watched the Catholic cable TV network, EWTN, and said the Rosary together. We did go to Mass together a couple of times," Jessica added.
"My ex-client, who is Italian, was quite a cook, but I did all the meal preparation. She had requests for Italian dishes, and she told me how to make Minestra di Piselli, a tasty Italian green pea soup that she loved. Because of her, I got into Italian cooking. Twice a month, her daughter would take both of us to a really good Italian restaurant, and that was a treat."
Jessica didn't have to wait long to be assigned to another client, and her current client is active and wants to remain on the move despite the numerous challenges that she has faced, including two forms of cancer, two strokes, a heart attack and early stages of dementia. "She likes to shop, so we often go to the mall and usually end up at three stores or more. All of the sales force knows her very well at one store," Jessica said. "She's very nice and very good to work with – we're buddies."
The client is a widow, but she has an English terrier, Margery, that Jessica also cares for. "Margery is a good dog who helps my client emotionally. Like my first client, this client – and her dog – are a good fit for me," said Jessica, who joined Home Instead in the fall of 2013.
When Jessica became a CAREGiver, she made the move with her good friend Ethel, who is also a CAREGiver. "We had been laid off at a company that shut down," Ethel recalled. "My friend heard about Home Instead, and we decided to both apply. I had taken care of my mom, although not as much as my sisters had."
"I was nervous and wondering about my first assignment. Looking back, it's easy to see why Stacy McClennon (retention and recruitment coordinator) and Destiny Wesley (staff coordinator) matched me with the client. For one thing, we had the same faith. We got along well from the very start. All of my clients, including those on my fill-in shifts, are sweet people and pleasant to work with. The same is true with the office, including franchise owner Greg Gomez-Mira, Destiny and Stacy. They are all helpful and easy to talk to."
Destiny said she could understand Jessica's anxiousness when she started with Home Instead, but Destiny also said Jessica is so humble that she tends to sell herself short. "Whenever I speak with Jessica," Destiny explained, "she seems to underestimate just how much she is needed and how good a job she does. I always have to tell her that everything is fine.
"It is my hope that with her CAREGiver of the Month recognition, Jessica will know just how much we at Home Instead Senior Care appreciate her – especially me! She is a very hardworking, dedicated, reliable and compassionate CAREGiver who has an abundance of patience. We love her."
Home Instead CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide a variety of non-medical services to help keep seniors independent. For inquiries about employment with Home Instead Senior Care, please call 713-774-2215 or email Recruitment and Retention Coordinator Stacy McClennon. Home Instead also accepts online CAREGiver applications.
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