CAREGiver of the Month Leslie Hagerman's heart raced as she watched her 81-year-old client unexpectedly rise during the social hour at the Anchorage Senior Center and join the dance as a two-man band played a country-and-western tune. The client's slow shuffle with her walker lasted a few minutes but will never leave Leslie's memory. "She was smiling," Leslie said, "and I just wish I had a video of it."
"I had been trying to get the client on the dance floor for some time so she can get a little exercise while having fun, but she had never wanted to dance until then," said Leslie, who was the CAREGiver honoree in January 2016 for Home Instead Senior Care® of Anchorage. "Her doctor has wanted her to exercise more."
Leslie is hoping her client's dancing episode – albeit a short one – will become part of her Wednesday routine when they visit the senior center. "It's a good time there," Leslie said, "because she reads in the senior center library before we go to the social hour. We know everybody at the senior center. We wouldn't miss it."
Getting her client out of her home regularly and keeping her active and engaged is one of Leslie's goals, and it's one of the reasons Leslie ends a shift with a feeling of fulfillment. "As a CAREGiver," Leslie said, "I am doing something that is meaningful and significant. I know my purpose is important. My clients know they can depend on me."
Leslie added: "I like to see them smile."
A moment after the word "smile" rolled off Leslie's lips, she recalled a treasured memory with a male client who seldom talks. Five months after Leslie had begun assisting her client, he broke his silence one day by blurting out, "I am finally getting used to you." Leslie chuckled when she said she had to suppress a belly laugh. "Since he is a man of few words," Leslie said, "that was quite something, and it meant a lot. I started with him as a fill-in, but I was requested as a regular CAREGiver. Because of my scheduling with other clients and my second job, I can spend only part of my Mondays with him. I am hoping that will change in the spring when I can perhaps spend more time with Home Instead Senior Care."
When Leslie joined Home Instead Senior Care on Dec. 3, 2014, about six months after moving from Maryland to be closer to her daughter, Leslie began working in professional senior care for the first time. She had worked for 14 years at a rural postal carrier, for eight years as a waitress for the Bakers' family restaurant in her hometown and as a daycare provider.
Leslie and her daughter were at a job fair last spring when they saw the Home Instead Senior Care booth. Her daughter turned to Leslie and said: "Mom, you ought to give that a shot." Caring for people in one way or another always has been Leslie's forte. Recalling her stint as a daycare provider, Leslie mused in a respectful, compassionate tone: "These are my kids now, but they are just a little older. I enjoy all people, regardless of age."
For nine months near the end of her time as a postal worker, Leslie helped an older couple who were on her delivery route. "I got to know them, took meals to them and helped them because the husband had a stroke and was in bad shape," Leslie explained. "The wife needed the help with his personal care once in a while because she is such a tiny person. The husband passed away at their home because she did not want to take him to a nursing home. I still talk to the wife once a week by phone."
Leslie noted: "These precious folks, like my clients, are people to whom you get attached. I form bonds. One client sat me down and had a frank discussion with me. She said, 'You probably will be the one who finds me dead.' She wanted to prepare me for it, and she talked about death with me. She's not at that stage, and I told her that I wanted her to hang in there. I think she will."
One of Leslie's challenges is getting a 77-year-old client out and exercising in the fresh air. "We're working on that and hope to get outside when the weather permits," Leslie said. "There are some personal-care issues involved, but nothing we can't overcome. I constantly encourage her and let her know I am here for her. She doesn't live far from me, and I have responded to her difficulties when they have come up."
Front Office Manager Rose Marie Holliday said: "Leslie is outstanding and is always in a happy mood. She has super energy and enjoys her clients. She makes us all proud with the wonderful care she delivers. She has completed all of her training. Leslie told us she doesn't need any glory because she is driven only to help the seniors. It's her way of helping others and doing the right thing. People have told us these things about Leslie: She is outstanding, a great person and a hard worker. She is very generous, responsible, very trustworthy, dependable and very dedicated."
Other staff members at owner Stacee Frost Kleinsmith's franchise also praised Leslie. Emerald Fuimaono and Vaoso "Vao" Tuiolemotu used the identical words: "Leslie is an awesome CAREGiver."
Emerald added: "Leslie always reports to the office on situations about which she is unsure. She is available almost all the time when we ask her to fill shifts. Leslie always has a good attitude and stories to share. Leslie is also very energetic and always has a smile when I see her."
Vao noted: "Leslie is dependable, punctual and very loyal. She has a sincere love and caring spirit for her clients. She has made sacrifices to accommodate her clients' needs on several occasions. She is surely a keeper."
Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide a variety of in-home services to help keep seniors independent. For inquiries about employment with Home Instead Senior Care, please call 907-277-4663 or email recruiting and retention coordinator Christa McStay at email@example.com. For further information about the company, visit http://www.homeinstead.com/637 or to learn more about the company's services link to a digital brochure at http://www.hisc637.digbro.com.
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