Cayla Ham, the satellite business development coordinator with Home Instead Senior Care® of Jackson, suddenly appeared at a client's home where CAREGiver Debra Perkins was working. It was unannounced, a big surprise. Was the visit one of those customary quality-control checks?
Cayla came with a CAREGiver Cornerstone Award for Debra, the Home Instead Senior Care franchise's highest CAREGiver honor. Only four such awards are presented each year. The client's wife couldn't contain her excitement for Debra and said, "Debbie has changed our life." The client repeated a couple of times, "Debbie does a good job."
Debra admitted to holding back tears. She said, "I never dreamed Cayla would come to the house for that. They hadn't done this at our office because the logistics hadn't worked out. The wife was so pleased their CAREGiver was being honored and that she and her husband were part of it. She made over me. It was magical. It meant a lot."
Manager of Client and CAREGiver Relations Mike Murphy said, "Debra has one of the kindest hearts I've ever seen. She's gentle, humble, supportive and 100 percent committed to her clients. We've gotten a lot of wonderful feedback about Debra. It was by no accident a client's wife said, 'Debbie has changed our life.' I'm so grateful we get to honor Debra as a CAREGiver Cornerstone Award recipient. She's truly deserving."
Recalling her 18 months with the award-winning franchise owned by Bryson and Linda McQuiston, Debra pointed out how her daughter, a former CAREGiver, encouraged her to apply. "I believe I went on the job just as my daughter was leaving for another job that worked out better time-wise for her and her family. It was hard for my daughter to leave Home Instead," Debra explained.
A client's family members immediately called the Home Instead Senior Care office to request Debra – her daughter had helped their 95-year-old senior loved one. Debra served the client for about a year before the client moved to a nursing home. "Despite familiarity – they knew my daughter and had heard about me -- I was a nervous wreck at first. I just never want to do anything wrong. My husband and daughter told me to have confidence. The client was the sweetest person. Bonding was good – in fact, she'd get upset when my shift was over," Debra said.
The Home Instead Senior Care staff also had encouraged Debra. "I couldn't have found a nicer bunch of people with whom to work. They are amazing. Their kindness is incredible. They are some of the sweetest people. I feel good about the clients, their families and the office," she said.
Debra had other observations in a question-and-answer format:
Question: How does someone know if he or she will be a good CAREGiver?
Debra: "You have to love what you're doing. You have to have a heart for people. I enjoy helping in the clients' lives, which is a good feeling. I enjoy seeing clients do better than before they began receiving our help. While helping seniors, I also help their families. Right now, my husband and I help an elderly family member on the weekends, so I stay busy with senior care the entire week. I look at Home Instead clients like family and want to do the right thing for them."
Question: Is it fair to say not everything goes smoothly in senior care?
Debra: "Yes, some days are challenging. One day when I walked in a home, the client's wife walked out to run some errands. The client looked blue. After I fixed him a meal, it put him in a better mood. Then he wanted to talk and told me as many things as he could remember. I enjoyed listening, and he enjoyed sharing. It's interesting to see how clients cope with aging and deal with its challenges. We come in and fill the gaps. I've learned a lot from family members."
Question: Tell us about your current work situation.
Debra: "I help two men as clients and their wives. They are two men I absolutely adore. They have sweet wives who appreciate the help. One client can do more things for himself, but he is hesitant. I help him and encourage him. I help the wives, although they are both capable. When I am there, the wives use the time to get out, run errands and get a change of scenery for a little while. They are dedicated to their husbands, but everyone needs a break. I do the laundry and other light housekeeping, medication reminders and meals. I ask what's needed, and I go do it."
Question: How do you deal with the multiple challenges a client's dementia can present?
Debra: "One client doesn't remember me. I always identify myself because I would never want to embarrass a client. CAREGivers understand repetition. Many dementia clients cannot help it. They are not trying to irritate anyone, and I've had to explain that to others. Clients don't realize they're being repetitive or forgetful – that is the disease. I try to keep their normal routine, and it means so much. I try to treat them like family."
Question: What are some good memories with a client?
Debra: "A client and I put a puzzle together. He was so excited when I'd find interlocking pieces. He'd keep giving me a thumbs-up. We got the puzzle together in a couple of hours, and he was tickled to death. I was a fill-in for another client who was an amazing, loving and caring husband. He looked after his wife and needed help. He was so sweet, something that melts your heart. Emotionally, I've benefited from the job. You get attached. I wish I'd found a job like this one 20 years ago. At the very least, it'd have been awesome to be here when our owners, Bryson and Linda, started the franchise in 2008. It also feels as if God led me here."
Our franchise serves most of West Tennessee, including Jackson, Medina, Humboldt, Milan, Trenton, Dyer, Alamo, Bells, Lexington, Henderson, Dyersburg, Gates, Halls, Brownsville, Covington, Brighton, Mason, Ripley, Paris, Munford, Atoka and Union City. All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (731) 984-7062 or apply online. For further information visit us at Home Instead Senior Care.