CAREGiver of the Month - Rita


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Rita Goes the Distance for a Client

CAREGiver of the Month Rita Salazar, matching her determined client stride for stride on the city sidewalks for about 30 minutes, pondered her options and tried several dementia-care techniques before saving the day with her cell phone.

The episode began when the client wanted to head out the door as he had done so many times before, and he left with Rita close by his side like a Secret Service agent guarding the president. Usually, the client would tire after a little while, and Rita would gently point him toward his house for the return.

One day was different. The client kept going. Attempts at redirection and refocusing, which always had worked before, were surprisingly futile. So, Rita finally pulled out her cell phone after about a half-hour of walking. “Generally,” Rita said, “I would go with the flow, but this time I called his wife. She drove over and intercepted us, and we got him into the car in good shape and took him home. I am not sure how far we went.”

Asked where she thought her client was going, Rita could only speculate. “He had mentioned from time to time he wanted to ‘go home’ to his parents’ house. They had lived in Corpus Christi. He would ask: ‘Where are my parents? Why have they not come to get me?’ ”

Rita has never been frustrated by any client’s words or behavior because, as a seasoned and trained senior-care professional, she had seen it before. Instead, she treated her client, who was in his 70s, with the dignity and compassion he deserves. When he refused to shower, Rita assisted him in cleaning up as the opportunity presented itself and when he allowed it. Some days, he refused to eat until Rita gently persuaded him.

“He had his moments, and he could be combative, but never with me. He was comfortable with me. He would start ‘sundowning’ (stirring) about 3 p.m. each day, but I almost always could redirect him – except for our one long walk. Even then, we had a good outcome,” Rita noted.

For her part, Rita said: “He was like a part of me. I treated him like a grandparent. He is a very smart man, a Princeton graduate, but he has full-blown dementia and that is simply not his fault. Home Instead’s service helped keep him out of a facility as long as possible, but the family finally decided to move him to a memory-care unit. Having me there also helped his wife with respite time so she could go out and run errands and shop,” said Rita, who started in October 2016 with owner Stephanie Niles’ award-winning Home Instead Senior Care® franchise in Victoria.

Rita has worked in home care for 15 years and was with another agency before she found Home Instead Senior Care during an online job search. She also discovered she knew one of the Home Instead Senior Care staff members. “Home Instead is a good company,” Rita said. “I have a young family, and they are flexible with me and my hours.”

Rita’s first client, a 76-year-old stroke victim, was also new to Home Instead Senior Care last October. They bonded quickly. The client has no other CAREGiver, and the client’s husband takes care of her on weekends and at night. “We laugh and have our moments – every day is memorable. She is affected a little bit by dementia. She is in a wheelchair, but she loves to get out,” Rita said. “She and I go shopping at a big-box store. When we are there looking around, the husband goes for the groceries. I do meal preparation for all three meals and put supper in containers before I leave for the day.”

Rita’s other client is more deeply affected by dementia. “He is kind, and he knows he is supposed to be with me. He remembered my name once. He is funny and always laughs at my jokes. One day when I was leaving, he threw me the peace sign, and I had to laugh,” Rita said.

Explaining her career choice, Rita said: “It takes time and patience, but I love my job. There is never a dull moment. You never know what will happen when you walk in the door. Both of my current clients greet me at the door. I hear, ‘I missed you. I feel spoiled by you.’ I am used to their routines, and they appreciate it.”

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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