There was no doubt in the eyes of AJ's parents that she was "the dependable one." At age 7, AJ was the oldest child, and she began taking care of her siblings out of love – and necessity.
"I could do housekeeping, including laundry, and I did some cooking at that age. I was a natural with cooking and cleaning, really a natural at everything," recalled AJ, who even now helps her grandmothers – who are 80 and 66 years old – plus five siblings. Since November 2018, she has worked as a CAREGiver for the award-winning Home Instead Senior Care franchise that serves Marion County, including Ocala, Silver Springs, Belleview and Summerfield. Franchise owners are Jim and Mary Samuelson.
"I am constantly on the go, and I enjoy it," AJ said. "I worked as a corrections officer for five years. I loved what I did, but it was time for something else."
AJ entered private-duty caregiving part time when she filled in for a friend who was taking care of a senior. AJ was going to school and helped twice a week. Eventually, she went full time as a private-duty caregiver, and a 103-year-old client never wanted AJ to leave. The two daughters of a private-duty client told AJ, "You have a gift." After her private-duty clients passed away, AJ wanted to move on to a home-care company for a steady flow of work.
AJ found Home Instead Senior Care during an online search and has never stopped displaying her huge, compassionate heart. "I truly love the job. I enjoy it," she said.
One of her two regular clients requires 24/7 care, and AJ alternates five- and six-day shifts every other week. The 100-year-old widower bonded instantly with AJ as her first Home Instead client last November. She admitted she was nervous at the start, but pointed out the client was immediately comfortable and patient with her. He lives alone, but a daughter lives close by.
"He's a sweet guy who appreciates me and says so, but he doesn't want to bother with certain people. If he doesn't want to talk to them, he just goes and sleeps," AJ said. "He told me, 'You make a big difference in my life. You are God-sent.' "
AJ laughed when asked about memorable days with the client. "He speaks a lot of different words and phrases in French and German, which is a fun part of his joking personality. He picked up the foreign languages when he was in the military and traveled in a lot of countries during World War II," AJ explained.
The client has favorite phrases: "Merci, madame" for "thank you." "Oui" for "yes."
"Pourquoi" for "why?" Said AJ: "I flat-out tell him, 'I don't know' when I don't understand." The client also likes military and patriotic music such as "The Army Goes Rolling Along." AJ sometimes plays the songs from her phone. The client has an iPad, and he uses it for music and FaceTime conversations with a son and daughter who live in New England.
One of AJ's former clients was a widow in her 90s. After meeting AJ and seeing her interact with her mother, the former client's daughter told AJ, "My mother needs a special touch. We think you're the one." Two other CAREGivers pointed out to AJ the former client remembered and mentioned her.
AJ said: "The former client embraced me. For some reason, she let me clean while saying no to others. She was a sweet lady who told me, 'I am glad I got to meet you.' The first day, a lot went on in her home that frustrated her. The land-line phone stopped working and the former client was upset, so I called her daughter on my cell. I calmed the former client by explaining it was a widespread phone outage in her area and had nothing to do with her phone. I talked her through it and gave her clarity and reassurance. She trusted me, and I could see it in her face."
The episode confirmed the daughter's first impression: "AJ went above and beyond the call of duty, and I loved it."
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.