Maricruz Zapata's Quinceanera was quickly approaching, but she wasn't immersed in detailed planning of an elaborate 15th birthday celebration. Maricruz had something more important to do, and it involved self-sacrifice rarely seen in a teenager. She and her cousins were staying 24/7 with a dying grandparent, and during the nights they were sleeping on the grandparent's porch.
"That grandparent died a week before my birthday," Maricruz recalled. "Almost exactly one year earlier – a week after my 14th birthday – another of my grandparents died. In all, three of my grandparents died around my birthday, but none went to a facility. Several of them needed care in their final last days. While I helped, I also noticed the care my grandparents received from others and learned from it. All caregivers who helped them were awesome. That's what made me want to do this line of work."
Fast forward to 2017. Just one month after joining owner Stephanie Niles' award-winning Home Instead Senior Care® franchise in Victoria, Maricruz was honored as the April CAREGiver of the Month. Previously, she had earned her CNA license in Houston and then worked for a year and a half in a state-licensed housing unit where three seniors received round-the-clock care. Maricruz later found Home Instead Senior Care during an online search, and the one-on-one client care appealed to her.
"I treat my clients as if they were my family. I want to keep them out of a care facility just like my family and I wanted to keep our grandparents from having to leave their homes," Maricruz said. "I love working for Home Instead Senior Care. With my schedule, I go most anywhere for a client because I am a fill-in for now."
Maricruz has had plenty of experience assisting those who have dementia."Every night started roughly for one 94-year-old lady with dementia because of Sundowner's syndrome. Once, she said she thought she was being kidnapped and that I was involved. I told her if that were the case, I would help her escape, and we could escape together. That would calm her down," Maricruz recalled.
"The important thing with dementia clients," Maricruz said, "is not to argue with them. Be calm and patient. You must appear to be poised and relaxed because they feed off your body language and facial expressions. If you are tense, they can get agitated and upset. Their memory might be impaired or fuzzy, but many of them still can read people pretty well."
Maricruz added, "It's OK if dementia clients are repetitive. Keep answering their same question as if you have heard it for the first time. Gently guide them away from negative comments or behaviors."
Maricruz laughed when she recalled a situation that called for a calm demeanor. "One lady client had accepted the fact that she could not drive, so she wanted me to drive her car while taking her along for an errand. Well, everybody is used to her own car, and I am no different. While I was getting a feel for her car, I tapped the brake pedal a little too hard when we were pulling out and gave the car a little bit of jolt. My client looked at me and said with a smile, 'Oh my. Maybe I should be driving.' I said, 'I am sorry. I am used to my own car.' Things went smoothly the rest of the day, and the client was happy. She got me to drive her everywhere," Maricruz said.
For one of her situations, Maricruz drew from memories of being with her dying grandparents to give her strength. "A client, who had been in hospice care for only three days, died while I was with him in mid-May. Altogether, I had been with him for a week, taking his assignment as a last-moment fill-in, but he was awesome. No matter how many times you've been through such situations, it is always sad. But I don't plan on leaving this job. Looking into the future, it might include nursing school for me. I like this work," she said.
All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about CAREGiver employment, please apply online or call 361-433-0330. For additional home care information visit Home Instead Senior Care.
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