Welcome to Home Instead Senior Care® of Ocala's CAREGiver Spotlight. Each month, one of our amazing CAREGivers will be randomly selected to share their story with their peers — YOU. We know you will enjoy reading and learning more about Christine Lewis.
Christine watched as her sister used a cell phone to survey jobs on a March Monday in 2017. Home Instead Senior Care of Ocala stood out during the online search. Christine, who'd been retired since July 2015, submitted an application to kick off a chain of events that led to a CAREGiver position by week's end. As far as Christine was concerned, it was a divine appointment.
"After retirement," Christine said, "I was bored with sitting around the house. I had prayed, 'God, I know You want me to do something.' " Then, pointing out she'd never worked in professional senior care but had been a family caregiver, Christine said: "I already had taken care of senior loved ones. I helped my mom, who had diabetes and was on dialysis. Then Dad got sick, and I'd visit him every day in the nursing home. I went back and forth all the time."
Christine's mother passed away in 2008, and her father died in October 2015. "Mom's death impacted Dad's health. They were married 62 years. Emotionally, I had prepared myself for my dad's death. I will pass that way, too, on the journey that all of us must take," she said.
After joining Jim and Mary Samuelson's Home Instead franchise that serves Marion County, including Ocala, Silver Springs, Belleview and Summerfield, Christine was matched with an unforgettable first regular client for five months before he passed away. Not long after Christine began helping the 94-year-old World War II bomber pilot, he and his family asked the Home Instead office to keep sending Christine.
Her 12-hour shifts with the client were always good days, Christine emphasized. Stories, oh my, the stories, Christine said. "He had books and books of pictures he took during the war. He educated me," Christine recalled. "I got so much joy from listening to his stories, that also included highlights of his golfing days. He and the legendary Arnold Palmer were in a picture that was taken at one of Palmer's golf courses. He believed in the Lord. He had talked about his late wife Dorothy, who died about two years before he did. He was sharp and focused until his final days. His favorite saying to me always was 'Be sweet.' "
Christine had the day off when the client died at age 95 in July 2017. "On Monday when I left, I didn't think he'd make it much longer. He was not responding. A hospice nurse was keeping track of his vital signs. Before I left, I whispered in his ear, 'Be sweet and tell Dorothy hello.' There was no response, but the hospice nurse said his pulse quickened after I spoke. She said, 'You told him to go ahead, it was OK to leave.' She said it was likely the last thing he heard before he died. He was like a good friend, like family. He was a sweet man."
The client's family also embraced Christine. One of the daughters called Christine to thank her for her care. "I offered to help her in any way I could, but she said everything was done. The client told his daughter he felt I would hurt deeply when he passed. She wanted to stay in touch with me. She has continued to do that even though she moved to another city. They are sweet, spiritual people."
After the client's passing, Home Instead schedulers gave Christine the rest of the week off and checked on her each day. "The office kept calling to see if I was OK, which touched my heart. I told them I was fine. One day, we will all go that way. I get attached to them all, but I am also a faith-based person and know there is more ahead after death," she said.
Christine said her current regular client "is a beautiful, sweet, lovely lady." Christine added: "She loves shopping, being on the go and mingling with people. I take her to the senior center, where we watch movies, socialize and have ice cream. Staying busy is key. She looks forward to my arrival and says, 'Where do we go today?' Rain is the only thing that keeps her inside."
Christine said a plaque that has hung in her home for more than 30 years has served as her mantra. The words, attributed to Quaker missionary Etienne de Grellet, say:
"I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
Christine said: "When you consider I hung the plaque three decades before I became a CAREGiver, it seems prophetic. But, then again, I've always tried to live each day that way."
All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (352) 269-3371 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit our website. Our Home Instead Senior Care office at 606 Southwest 3rd Avenue in Ocala (34471) serves Marion County, including Ocala, Silver Springs, Belleview and Summerfield.