Every month we would like to begin honoring those individuals on our team who contribute a little extra, even beyond the normal exceptional service all our CAREGivers provide. These people inspire us each and every day to do what we can to make the lives of others just a little bit better, in whatever way we can – big or small. Return frequently to see each month's new CAREGiver of the Month!
From Trinidad, Rebecca came to the United States 20 years ago on vacation, fell in love, and never left. Growing up in Trinidad with 4 sisters and 2 brothers, Rebecca's childhood was a happy and healthy one. As a child she ran relay, played basketball, and walked over a mile to get to school every day. Committed to healthy eating, her family ate mostly from their vegetable garden. Eating well and staying active were and still are a priority in Rebecca's life. As a Home Instead CAREGiver, Rebecca brings her high energy and healthy lifestyle to all her clients. A beautiful smile, encouraging exercise when possible, and making homemade fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies are just a few of the many ways that Rebecca brings joy to the lives of the people she cares for every day. "What I do for myself, I try to do for others," says Rebecca. "She does whatever we ask. Whatever we need. She takes care of my wife and I. I don't know what we would do without her," says her current client of 3 years.
Before senior care, Rebecca worked in child care for about 10 years. Seeking a meaningful change, she went back to school to become a CNA. "I was always intrigued by caring for seniors so I decided it was time for me to follow that passion. I love taking care of people. I love doing this work." In her free time, Rebecca enjoys spending time with her family, reading, cooking, and, of course, exercise.
There is nothing that Susan wouldn't do for her current client of 2 ½ years. Says her client's daughter, "Susan has been the most wonderful companion and advocate for my mother. I live long distance and I can tell when I speak with my mom that she is very happy with Susan's love and care. Susan truly makes a difference in my mom's life and that's important to all of us. She's been such a wonderful addition to our family!"
Born in South Korea, Susan's parents moved to the United States when she was just 2 years old to try to make a better life for themselves. Susan stayed behind with her maternal grandmother and uncle, who raised her for the next 5 years. During those formative years, her grandmother was her "mother", and her uncle was her "father". At age 7, Susan's mother went to South Korea to bring her daughter back to the US. Susan's immense love for her grandmother is one of the reasons she feels so endeared to the elderly.
Raised in NJ, Susan's parents worked hard to build a life for Susan and her sister. From a very young age her parents led by example, reinforcing that it takes hard work to achieve things in life. She saw this with her grandmother, her mother, and now, she has passed this work ethic down to her own 2 daughters.
After working as a CPA for 9 years, Susan took a leave of absence to raise her daughters full time. Raised as a latch-key kid, she always knew that she wanted to be home for her kids after school. Despite her own parent's late hours, Susan's mother would come home every night and cook a full Korean meal so that they could all have dinner together. Although she still leaves the Korean cooking to her mother, home cooked meals and nightly family dinners have always been a priority.
Susan volunteered her time at Phelps Hospital in the Silver Spoon program, and also with the Croton Meals Delivery bringing meals to the infirmed as well as homebound seniors. As a caregiver for Home Instead she goes above and beyond for her current client. "I just do for my client what I would want done for myself," she says. Not only does Susan keep the house immaculate, she does the food shopping, meal prep, organizes and accompanies her client to doctor appointments and PT, organizes clergy visits, mail, and helps keep her calendar and home up-to-date and organized. Something else they do together every time Susan is there…have tea/coffee and conversation. Just like family.
"When Susan is with me, I never have to worry. We work so well together," says her client.
It would be difficult to find a Caregiver more committed and more kind than Margaret. A person who always goes above and beyond, Margaret has an innate ability to provide care and comfort to others. Born and raised in Ghana, Margaret has 2 loving parents, and 11 siblings. It was Margaret's loving grandmother, who partially raised her, who she considers her inspiration to work in the health care industry. The deep relationship she had with her grandmother has provided a foundation that now gives Margaret the ability to provide love and compassion to her clients.
Prior to being an HHA for Home Instead, Margaret was a CNA. She found however that she could do more good caring for people one-on-one rather than seeing many patients a day, and working in home care was a perfect fit. "I never make it seem like I am working. It's all about relating to the person. And I always try to have a positive attitude, be optimistic, and say something to give people hope," says Margaret. As a result, Margaret always ends up making a real difference in people's lives. She always leaves her mark.
As a Caregiver, Margaret understands that it often takes some creativity, and that there may be some obstacles to getting people to cooperate. After gaining their trust, she has a way of finding out what a client likes to do, or liked to do in the past, and figures out how to incorporate specific activities into their daily schedule. "Games, puzzles, telling jokes & stories, sometimes just looking through old pictures. It's important to give people room to think for themselves. They help me as much as I help them," she says.
Recently married, Margaret's plan is to pursue a degree in Geriatric Nursing, and one day have a family of her own. And if Home Instead ever has a Caregiver Cookoff, Margaret will be making her Ghanaian Fufu and Soup, and classic Jollof Rice (also called Benachin) with Goat Meat!
Born and raised in Arkansas, Sidney moved to Peekskill, NY when she was a teenager. Sidney's whole life has been devoted to working hard and taking care of others. She worked for the VA Hospital for 34 years - a mentally and physically demanding job that she was committed to until it got the best of her. She got her CNA license thru the VA, and it was during her last few years there that she started working part-time at various nursing homes.
Being a hard worker is something that Sidney learned from her mother, and it is something that she has since passed down to her own 2 daughters. "Hard work and commitment are just built into me. Whatever you want in life, you must work for it!" says Sidney. A unique combination of tough and sensitive, and with a good sense of humor, her passions in life are caring her own family, and caring for her clients as if they were her family.
In 2011, Sidney turned to home care and started working for Home Instead. Reliable and hard-working, Sidney's past experience caring for such a diverse population at the VA, has taught her to be not only an extremely patient caregiver, but also adaptable to any and all situations.
"If you really LIKE what you do, you will learn what you HAVE to do to be good at your job," says Sidney. And this is the attitude that she takes with her every day to work. Currently caring for someone with dementia, Sidney understands the importance of taking things one day at a time. As she says, every day is totally different and requires her to be open and adaptable. "I pay close attention at all times to keep my client safe. I know how to anticipate [his] needs." It is for these reasons that Sidney Murphy is July's outstanding Caregiver of the Month!
This month we honor Bernadette Leon as Caregiver of the Month. Bernadette has been a dedicated caregiver for Home Instead for 18 years! Committed, patient, and passionate, Bernadette puts her heart and soul into caring for the elderly. "My mind has always been with older people. I just fell in love with taking care of the elderly. It's a joy. It's a godsend," says Bernadette.
Bernadette, born and raised in St.Lucia, West Indies, is from a loving family, and 1 of 7 siblings. At 17 years old, she moved to Brooklyn to come live with one of her brothers, and she has been here ever since. After working in a factory in Brooklyn, and then as a nanny in Westchester, she started her career as a caregiver. Luckily she found Home Instead, and here she has been ever since.
It was on one of her visits back to St.Lucia that she met her husband. In a loving marriage now for 10 years, he understands her dedication to caregiving. Currently, Bernadette has been a live-in caregiver for the same person for 4 years. And when she has time off, she and her husband make the most of their time together – going to church, cooking, cleaning (she loves to clean), maybe enjoying a day on Coney Island. Family has always been most important to Bernadette, and this value is the reason why she takes care of every client as if they were her own mother or father.
Bernadette doesn't like to sit still, and always finds a way to keep busy and make herself useful. She loves music, and loves to dance. For her current client, she puts on her own little "Broadway show" incorporating Yiddish words, and, of course, dancing. Her enthusiasm and energy keep the spirits up, and a keep a smile on whoever is lucky enough to be in the room.
"It's not just that she works for me. I love her so much. I haven't got enough adjectives to describe Bernadette," says her current client. "She's my helper, par excellence! And sometimes she makes me laugh so hard that my belly hurts."
Elizabeth is from Johannesburg, South Africa, or, as some prefer to call it – Joburg, or Jozi. A caregiver in Jozi, Elizabeth was caring for a family when, in 1993, the person needed to come to the USA to have surgery. Elizabeth accompanied the family to the states, and, thankfully, she has lived here ever since. She went to school and got her HHA, and soon after, her CNA.
Elizabeth loves her job caring for the elderly and she can't imagine doing anything else. "I have always loved helping people, and I truly love my clients," she says. And as a result, Elizabeth becomes "part of the family" of most people she cares for, together celebrating holidays, birthdays and special occasions. Once, for Christmas, Elizabeth made hand knit scarves for the family members of her client because "if you make something handmade, it makes people happy," she says.
Soft spoken, kind, and compassionate, Elizabeth takes life one day at a time, and is more of a listener than a talker. Quick to smile and laugh, her easygoing nature has a way of putting people at ease; a past client nicknamed her "super woman." Often working 2 or 3 jobs, hard work is habit for Elizabeth, and she would have it no other way. "When I am working, they are my second family," she says. But when she does take time to go home, her way of relaxing is to clean house, and listen to classical music. "Music is my company!"
"I'm not much of a talker," says Gerry. "I just show up and do my work. My work speaks for itself."
I told Gerry that we couldn't just leave it at that because she is being honored as CAREGiver of the Month, and we need to let people know what makes her so special. A CAREGiver for more than 40 years, providing care for the elderly has been Gerry's life since she was a teenager. Born in Alabama, southern hospitality is in her blood. As a young child, she moved to Westchester with her parents and 6 siblings. Her Auntie worked in a nursing home and played a big role in Gerry's love of eldercare. Hard working, dependable, and energetic, Gerry currently works for Home Instead, as well as a nursing home, AND a group home for mentally challenged adults. Why work in so many places? "Because it's in my heart to care for people. And having a big heart is what keeps me young!" she laughs.
Over the years, Gerry's clients and their families have only had the nicest things to say about her. "It's always hard to find a substitute to fill her shoes when she takes time off (which she rarely does)," says Home Instead Office Manager Angela Halstead. The daughter of Gerry's current client remembers the time that her mother went away for a few days to visit a relative, and her father was worried that Gerry was going with her. "She just makes all of us feel secure and comfortable. Gerry does everything with so much love…my parents absolutely love her. She's truly a blessing," says the daughter.
Always a peacemaker, Gerry is kind and patient. When things get chaotic, she can be counted on to juggle everything, stay calm and get things done with a smile. In addition to being a CAREgiver, she enjoys spending time with her large extended family, listening to gospel music, and Southern cooking. Her specialties: cornbread stuffing, fried corn, fried okra, and naturally, fried chicken. You can take Gerry out of the south, but you can't take the south out of Gerry!
Brenda has been with Home Instead for nearly 6 years, and it didn’t take long for her to become a caregiver loved by all. Born in Antigua and raised in St.Thomas, her family followed the Caribbean tradition of many families where children are temporarily raised by their grandmothers so that mothers can find work and a better life somewhere else. Brenda’s grandmother not only took care of Brenda, but her other grandchildren as well, while her mother moved to St.Thomas to build a business of her own. After an accident landed Brenda in the hospital when she was just five years old, her mother made the decision that it was time for Brenda and her 3 cousins to join her in St.Thomas. Brenda has always been a hard worker, both in school as well as jobs, an education being her number one priority. Starting at just seven years old, she worked every day after school helping out her mother in the bodega that she owned. Independent, smart and determined, Brenda began driving at age 12, causing much confusion for the local police when she finally got her driving license at age 16!
In 1984, when Brenda was 18, she moved to the Bronx to live with her father and attend college where she pursued business and marketing. She went on to work first at Woolworths Department Store, and then to CHASE Bank where she worked up the ranks and continued working for close to 19 years. Even at the bank, Brenda was always there to lend a hand to the older customers when they needed it. However, when her mother fell ill in 2009, Brenda decided to follow her dream and get educated in the health field. She knew that she wanted to work with the elderly so she went back to school and got certified as a CNA and HHA. “When you get older, there’s not much you can do about it. Seniors have been through so much in their lives, and everyone needs TLC,” says Brenda. “I enjoy working with the elderly the most because I don’t like to see them ill-treated or taken advantage of, and it’s where I see that I can do the most good.”
Everyone who Brenda has cared for gets the perk of experiencing her outstanding cooking. For her current client of several years, Brenda has mastered kosher cooking and she now makes a mean Shabbat dinner. On her own time, she mostly cooks West Indian dishes from Jerk Pork and Stewed Chicken to Oxtail and Rice and Peas. She also enjoys traveling, cruises, throwing parties, family gatherings and reading.
“Brenda is one of our most reliable caregivers. Dependable, conscientious, kind, and a great sense of humor,” says Office Manager Angela Halstead.
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