CAREGiver Awards & Recognition
February 2021 CAREGiver of the Month: Indira C.
Indira C. has tried other jobs, but she keeps coming back to caregiving. Like many CAREGivers, she got her start taking care of her own family members. She was referred by a friend to Home Instead, and she likes the company’s friendly, helpful staff and flexible schedules.
Indira’s favorite part of the job is making her clients happy—or, as she puts it, “just making their day a little brighter, seeing them laugh, and having a great time.” She likes taking her clients places, making their meals, and just “doing what they want to do.” One of her favorite clients was a woman who had her eight children come over on Sunday nights for dinner. “We were all talking and laughing until late at night,” Indira says. “That was a fun and memorable time.” Indira watched this client get help from social workers and hospice nurses, which helped inspire her to continue her own caregiving training. She is now a certified nursing assistant.
Indira thinks its important that CAREGivers support and learn from each other. CAREGivers should practice healthy living and celebrate the successes of a tough job.
The work she does and the difference she makes in her clients’ lives make Indira proud. “Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, or an honest compliment,” she says. “The smallest act of caring has the potential to turn a life around.”
January 2021 CAREGiver of the Month: Pauline D.
Caregiving has given Pauline D. the chance to become a more patient person, and patience is especially key when dealing with the challenges of dementia patients. It’s important to “pay attention to their needs,” she advises, and to be a good listener.
Pauline enjoys many things about caregiving, such as hearing her clients’ stories about their lives. She also likes playing memory games with them and helping them with tasks like operating their TV or cell phone.
Learning to be a person who cares for others, Pauline got a lot of inspiration from the generous nature of her grandmother. “She would give people a place to stay if they were in need,” Pauline remembers.
Pauline enjoys the “good environment” that Home Instead provides for its CAREGivers. Nevertheless, the job can be stressful, so to relax, Pauline listens to gospel music. “Music like gospel and classical can calm people down,” she notes.
2020 CAREGiver of the Year: Michael M.
Michael M. spent 17 years as a lawyer for the Department of Labor. But being a CAREGiver was the job that really made him grow up.
“Caregiving for my dad and my grandmother fully matured me, from a boy to a man,” says Michael, who, like many professional CAREGivers, first learned the job from taking care of his own family members. “I was impulsive, not very focused, and not organized. I didn’t have much of a purpose. I found those things with caregiving.”
Michael also found success in his new career. He was recently named 2021’s CAREGiver of the Year for Home Instead of Montgomery County and Northwest DC.
Michael’s journey from lawyer to CAREGiver of the Year began in Howard County, MD. Although Michael was born in Brooklyn, NY, his family soon relocated to the Washington, DC, area, so his dad could work in the new Social Security Administration headquarters in Woodlawn, MD. In 1968, Michael’s parents bought a house in the new planned community of Columbia, MD. “We were the 200th family to move there,” Michael notes.
After graduating from Columbia’s Wilde Lake High School in 1978, Michael completed his associate’s degree at Howard Community College. He finished his four-year degree in political science at Syracuse University, then was off to law school at Case Western Reserve University. By 1986, he was back in the DC area, working as a lawyer for the Department of Labor on black-lung claims.
A year later, Michael’s life took a major turn when he was offered a position in Tampa with the Department of Labor’s National Labor Relations Board. “There was 20 inches of snow on the ground here,” says Michael, “so I said yes.”
Michael enjoyed the Florida weather and the lower cost of living. But he hated being a lawyer. “It’s a very confrontational job,” he says, “and I don’t like confrontation.” In 2003, he moved back north to take care of his father in Silver Spring, MD. His dad had developed severe complications from diabetes that had gone untreated. Numbness in his feet sometimes caused him to fall. He had also become legally blind and could no longer drive.
Michael’s father was able to afford round-theclock care in his home. “I was more supervising the CAREGivers,” says Michael of that time period. “I gave him his medication and took him to doctor appointments.” When his dad passed away in 2006, Michael moved back to Tampa. “My dad had left me some money,” Michael says. “I was doing some consulting work and looking for work as a lawyer.”
But less than three years later, Michael was back in the DC area, this time to take care of his 96-year-old grandmother. She resided in an independent-living apartment for seniors, but was in danger of losing her place, as dementia was setting in and she had started to wander around the building. She was also becoming frailer with age and had hurt herself from falling. Michael co-signed her apartment lease and moved in with her, so she was able to stay in her home until she passed away in 2014. Michael continues to live in the same apartment in Silver Spring.
This time, Michael had to be a much more handson CAREGiver. “I did everything,” Michael says. “Her last year, she was completely bedridden.” He had to learn new caregiving techniques, like changing her adult diapers and changing her sheets while she was still in her bed.
Despite the difficult work taking care of his father and grandmother, Michael says he found it “really fulfilling.” Caregiving also taught him important life skills, like how to be organized. “If you’re not, things fall apart really quickly,” Michael says.
Michael recounts an experience with his grandmother that imparted a “life-changing” lesson in caregiving. One time he tried to give his grandmother her sleeping medicine, but she refused. This medicine helped her sleep through the night, so she wouldn’t wander—and, by extension, it helped Michael sleep through the night too. “I was at wit’s end,” Michael says. “I got mad and started yelling at her. I decided I would try again in 20 or 30 minutes.” After watching a little TV, Michael went to give his grandmother the medicine, but he couldn’t find her. He even searched the apartment building’s hallways and lobby. Finally, returning to their apartment, he noticed that the shower curtain in the bathroom was closed, instead of open as it normally was. He found his grandmother sitting behind the curtain on her shower chair, “looking mad,” Michael says. “It was ridiculous, and I started laughing, then she started laughing. Her mood immediately improved, and I was able to get her to take her pills.” From the experience, Michael learned how important his own attitude is in being a successful CAREGiver to seniors. “I realized that if you are grumpy and unenthusiastic, then your attitude will rub off on them,” he explains. “But if you have a positive attitude and you are cheerful and act happy, they will be agreeable. This is the most effective way of dealing with seniors—it makes my job easier.”
Lessons like these are what prepared him to take on his job as a CAREGiver at Home Instead, where he landed about a month after his grandmother died. He quickly distinguished himself as a committed CAREGiver. “He approaches each assignment with a winning attitude,” says Debbie, Home Instead’s scheduling coordinator.
Making clients feel comfortable and building trust and rapport with them are key to successful caregiving, says Michael. “I treat them with respect,” he explains. “When they feel you’re reliable and that you’ll come through for them, they are more willing to cooperate with you and to try things.”
The results of his efforts have paid off in the good feedback he receives from his clients. “I am so thankful to have Michael as a CAREGiver for my dad,” says Heather, the daughter of one of Michael’s seniors. “My dad really enjoys having Michael there, because he goes above and beyond.”
Michael provides support and companionship to his clients, but he gets just as much in return from them. He thinks of his clients like extended family, and he relies on their company to brighten his day. This is especially important during the pandemic. Michael enjoys social gatherings in his condo building and going to the theaters to watch movies, but these activities have been restricted or cancelled because of Covid-19.
Michael’s relationship with one of his earliest clients is a good example of how he makes those he cares for feel like family. The senior, a gentleman in his early 90s, was mentally sharp, but lonely and depressed following his wife’s death and needed some company, along with help cleaning, cooking, dishes, laundry, and other household chores. The client had built a distinguished career in government, working for NASA and in the Nixon and Carter administrations, before retiring, and, as a former government employee himself, Michael found they had a lot in common. “I’m a natural talker,” Michael says. “We would tell a million stories. We became very good friends.” The friendship boosted the client’s spirits, and when Michael met the client’s son and daughter, they had already heard many good things about Michael from their dad. Soon, a friendship grew between Michael and the client’s family members. The son and daughter started coming over during Michael’s shift, bringing their kids and food for a potluck dinner. “I was included in the dinners, like I was part of the family,” says Michael.
During his seven years at Home Instead, Michael has continued to build his diplomatic skills as a CAREGiver, learning how to handle the special challenges that in-home senior care presents. For instance, on almost every visit, Michael must convince a client, who is nearly blind and has dementia, to get showered and dressed. The client believes he has already done these things, when in fact he hasn’t. Michael’s has to be polite, patient and diplomatic, so his client doesn’t feel belittled. “I usually have him feel the shower curtain and wash cloth so he can see they are dry,” Michael says. “I point out that if hehad showered, they would still be wet. Then he usually is convinced and will get in the shower.” Occasionally, the client will refuse to be convinced and will not get in the shower or get dressed. Michael realizes in those instances, it’s best to back off, instead of pushing and upsetting the client. “It all requires building trust,” he says.
This ability to problem-solve—to “think on his feet,” as Debbie puts it—is one of many reasons that Michael was chosen as CAREGiver of the Year. Diana, Home Instead client services manager, also notes that Michael is excellent at communicating with the front office. “He’s on top of any obstacle that arises with a client,” she says. “He always keeps us informed of any issues.”
“He pays attention to every detail about his clients,” Debbie adds, “and reports all his findings about his clients in a timely and thorough manner.”
One example of how Michael’s attention to detail paid off was when he helped one of his clients with a medical problem. Michael noticed that the senior was going to the bathroom a lot. “I knew from prior clients and from taking care of my dad and my grandmother that urinary tract infections can be insidious in older people,” says Michael. He called the Home Instead office, as well as the client’s daughter, to let them know of the suspected UTI. The daughter made a doctor appointment for her father, and sure enough, he had a UTI. He was treated successfully with antibiotics. The same situation repeated a year later—Michael intervened when he suspected a UTI, and once again the client got medical help and beat his infection.
While Michael likes his job, he also appreciates his free time. He enjoys rooting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and watching all kinds of sports on TV. (He loves sports so much he once considered becoming a sports writer.) He is an avid reader, especially of science fiction—Isaac Asimov’s Foundations series is a particular favorite. He cherishes spending time with his sister, who lives nearby, and he adores her two sons. “I really enjoy visits with them,” he says. “I’m teaching the oldest one how to drive.”
Michael recently celebrated his 60th birthday, but he has no plans to retire soon—or to ever return to being a lawyer, even though it’s more lucrative than caregiving. “I found my joy in caregiving,” Michael says. “I like helping people and interacting with them. I heard all my life that you want a job that doesn’t feel like work. That’s how this job is for me. The vast majority of days, I wake up looking forward to my day. It gives me a reason to live.”
December 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Marguerite A.
Before coming to the DC area, Marguerite A. lived in New Jersey and worked with seniors for many years. Because she enjoys the work, the transition to Home Instead’s Silver Spring office was a natural fit. She enjoys all the life experiences and knowledge that her senior clients share with her.
Marguerite has a lot of advice for CAREGivers to be successful on the job. Be prepared for every day to be different, she says. She believes that CAREGivers should develop good listening skills, and patience and kindness are also very important.
When asked what kind of books or films she would recommend to CAREGivers, Marguerite answers, “anything wholesome.” The Hallmark Channel “has very good family movies,” she notes, and she also recommends reading uplifting books with inspirational stories. When it comes to the stress of caregiving, Marguerite handles it with “lots of prayer.”
In her spare time, Marguerite loves to listen to any kind of music, and she gets inspiration from spending time with her children and grandchildren.
November 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Joyce M.
Compassion is a big part of being a good CAREGiver, according to Joyce M. “If you don’t have compassion for the elderly or people in general, then this is not the job for you,” says Joyce. “Being compassionate is the only way you can enjoy taking care of others.”
Making seniors feel safe and independent is the top priority for Joyce M. when it comes to her role as a CAREGiver. “It’s amazing to know that I make a difference in someone’s life,” she says.
Joyce has had to deal with some interesting situations as a CAREGiver, including the time a dementia patient woke in the middle of the night to say she was selling her house and Joyce had to leave if she wasn’t going to buy it. Joyce admits that caregiving can have its tough times—and its tough clients. “But luckily, I haven’t had something that’s too hard to handle,” she says, adding that she tries not to take anything too personally.
Joyce likes to learn about history through reading books in her spare time. She also learns a lot from the experiences and years of wisdom that her clients share with her. “I meet people from all walks of life,” she says.
Much can be learned from her fellow Home Instead CAREGivers as well. “They really make sure to help their clients the best they can,” says Joyce, adding that she has been impressed with the caring environment that Home Instead creates for its clients.
Overall, she is grateful for her time at Home Instead. “My experience as a CAREGiver is so good,” she says.
October 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Elfinish L.
Elfinesh L. loves being the reason that her senior clients can stay independent in their own homes. Her main goal is to try to make her clients happy. She does this by just being friendly and listening to them talk about their lives. “Treat them as if they were a family member,” she says.
One client in particular is a lot of fun to be around. He loves to play bingo, and is so “happy and excited” when he wins, she says.
Elfinesh looks up to her parents, who motivated her to work hard. But when it’s time to relax, she likes reading the Bible, listening to classical music, or watching I Love Lucy. She also makes an effort to exercise, sleep well, and eat right to keep her stress in control. It also helps, she adds, to “take a deep breath” to “cool down quickly.”
September 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Elizabeth A.
People are the passion of Elizabeth A., and she gets joy out of helping and caring for others through her work at Home Instead. “I always wanted to serve my community,” she says. She is grateful for the kindness that the Home Instead staff members have shown her, and they, in turn, appreciate Elizabeth’s diligent and caring attitude.
Elizabeth likes how Home Instead treats each client individually and makes his or her care a “top priority.” The staff at Home Instead and her fellow CAREGivers inspire Elizabeth, as do her clients. She sincerely enjoys spending time with the elderly, and “their perspectives and insights” never cease to amaze her. “Nothing makes me happier than to see them smile,” she says, and sharing laughter with them is one of her “fondest treasures.”
Elizabeth’s faith in God is her rock, allowing her to weather stressful times. And caregiving can be stressful. But Elizabeth advises other CAREGivers to work diligently and stay focused on loving and caring for their elderly clients. “Remember you are human and so is everyone else you meet,” she says. “Try not to take things personally.”
August 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Russell C.
For Russell C., caregiving is a mission sent from heaven above. “I was very young when the Blessed Mother appeared to me in my dream,” says Russell. “This is the job that she wanted me to do.”
Because of her special devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, Russell feels that she has two “most loving and kind” mothers. Her “biological mother” lives thousands of miles away, and Russell wishes she could be closer to take care of her. She feels caregiving through Home Instead is a way she can make up for the care she can’t give her mother.
Russell has appreciated her experience interacting with the Home Instead staff, which she describes as “friendly and accommodating.” But she gets the most satisfaction from helping her senior clients.
“I always greet [them] with a smile,” she says. “I treat them with respect and show that I genuinely care for them.” She adds that she tries to give them the kind of care that she would want to have if she were in their shoes.
Russell enjoys preparing beverages and meals for her clients, who are grateful for her efforts. She also enjoys seeing her clients smile with satisfaction after they have been “cleaned and groomed.”
When handling dementia patients, she likes to sing with them – “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” is a favorite of hers and her clients. She also likes watching old movies and shows with them on Turner Classic Movies and The History Channel.
In general, she just wants to make her clients feel special and do whatever she can to help them. When asked how she deals with the stress that comes with caregiving, Russell says, “I have never considered my job stressful at all. There is joy in my heart to see my clients happy and grateful for the care [I give them].”
July 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Lesley R.
Lesley R. was delighted to find that many of her Home Instead clients are former New Yorkers, like herself. She enjoys listening to them talk about their hobbies, family, and past jobs and travels. One client met her husband in an elevator, and Lesley especially enjoyed hearing that story. She finds that her clients are also interested in learning about her.
Lesley is a big believer in getting to know clients as much as possible. “Always read the client’s history,” she says, and establish good communication through conversation.
“Embrace each client,” Lesley adds. “They all bring a new experience or challenge. Most of all, enjoy what you do.”
Lesley finds that staying healthy is key to alleviating stress on the job. In addition, she finds that making an effort to understand her clients and meet their needs helps things to go smoothly. She is thankful that the “awesome” Home Instead team is available to answer questions and help with any major concerns. She appreciates the dedication and professionalism of Home Instead, which “stands proudly in the communities it serves and is committed to the service it provides.”
June 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Charity O.
Charity O. wanted to be a CAREGiver because she has a passion for the work. But with so many senior care companies, which one would be the best fit? She turned to Home Instead, because of the great reviews she read about the company.
One of the wonderful things about working with seniors is the chance to learn from them, says Charity. She enjoys listening to their stories about their lives, families, and past achievements. And she loves the appreciation they show for her efforts and companionship.
One time in particular stands out in her mind. Arriving for her shift, Charity saw that her client was feeling down. Immediately, Charity redirected the senior to her favorite TV show. “We got talking and laughing,” Charity says. “We even talked about politics and things going on in the world. At the end of the day, she said, ‘Thank you for making me feel better.’”
This story illustrates some of the techniques that Charity uses with her clients. Redirect them when they are having a bad day. Try to leave the shift with them feeling better. And know their interests, whether it’s music and reading or playing bingo and going shopping. Each client is different, and when she knows what makes them happy, it ends up being less stressful for her as well.
Charity has her own interests that bring happiness and fun into her life. She enjoys singing, dancing, exercising, and shopping. She likes watching comedies and romantic movies—ones that she recommends are Coming to America, Pretty Woman, and Rush Hour. She also likes gospel music by Tasha Cobbs, Travis Green, and Sinach.
One way that Charity deals with the stresses of caregiving is to not take personally whatever her clients say and do. If CAREGivers are “professional” and have “a client-centered mentality,” she says, they will be successful.
May 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Wilta B.
Wilta B. wanted to help and support the elderly…and what better place to do it than Home Instead? Seniors make her happy and put a smile on her face.
She remembers the first time she made breakfast for a client, and the satisfaction she got from that has continued through all the many little ways she assists her senior clients. Her philosophy for working with seniors is simple: “Be helpful. Be nice. And make the client happy.”
She is impressed with the determination that her clients show—especially how they strive to be independent and overcome their challenges. She remembers in particular a client who was very sick and had trouble standing up, but she kept trying and wouldn’t quit.
When Wilta wants to relax, she turns to classical music. “I try to listen to it as much as I can,” she says.
Thanks, Wilta, for all you do for our beloved seniors and for being a model for other CAREGivers!
April 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Kelly G.
Kelly G. considers himself a doer – and at Home Instead, he says, he has found a group of doers like himself.
Kelly was looking to volunteer with seniors – but when he realized he could get paid to work with them, he decided that was an even better option! He enjoys his job as a CAREGiver with Home Instead very much and especially appreciates the support that the office provides to him. He finds the training sessions especially valuable, giving him a chance to learn from others’ uplifting stories and advice. “The enthusiasm of my co-workers lights up my heart,” he says.
Seniors have a lot of valuable life experience to share, and Kelly finds that when he spends time with them, it’s like getting a “one-on-one history lesson.” He admires how his clients handle their failing health with minimal complaints. Dementia clients will sometimes surprise and amuse him with a witty, coherent remark. And sometimes these clients will throw a negative comment his way – but he deals with that by realizing they are suffering from an illness, and he tries not to take it personally.
When the job gets tough, turn to the Home Instead office for help, Kelly advises. They are “caring,” he says, and ready to handle any problem. For CAREGivers coping with stress, he suggests reading as a way to relax, especially books that provide “joy, peace, and happiness!”
March 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Michael M.
Before Michael M. began working for Home Instead, every job felt like “a job.” But caregiving is different. “Helping people does not feel like a job to me,” he says.
Looking after his grandmother for five years got Michael interested in caregiving. “At first, I was overwhelmed by the responsibility,” he says of that time period. But eventually, he discovered that he loved caregiving. “So when my grandma passed, it was natural to look for a caregiving job, and I found Home Instead through the internet. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Michael loves the appreciation he receives from seniors when he helps them with tasks they can no longer do. He also is inspired by how some of his senior clients face their obstacles. “I have one client who is legally blind, yet he is always in good spirits,” says Michael. “He has taught me much about gratitude.”
February 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Mildred M.
Like many CAREGivers at Home Instead, Mildred M. felt a calling to work with seniors. She has always enjoyed helping seniors in an informal way, whether it was making sure they were comfortably seated at church or helping them reach an item on a shelf at the grocery store. When she was between jobs and looking for work, she looked up “senior care” online, which brought her to Home Instead’s website. She applied and was happy to be called in for an interview and eventually hired.
Mildred likes cooking for her clients, keeping them groomed and dressed nicely, and just generally making them happy. Her advice for other CAREGivers is to “always put your clients first. Get to know their likes and dislikes. You are there to help them feel comfortable in their home.” Mildred also appreciates the Home Instead staff, who have shared their own caregiving experiences with her and have provided her with crucial training to help her be a better CAREGiver.
Faith is an important part of Mildred’s life. She credits God for answering her prayers for finding a new job and leading her to Home Instead. She likes to arrive early to her caregiving appointments to have time to pray. “I thank God for his traveling grace,” she says, “and ask him to give me strength to help me be patient and understanding with my client.”
January 2020 CAREGiver of the Month: Barbara J.
Barbara J. was looking for a job that would be meaningful to her and thought she might like to work with seniors. When she researched in-home care services online, Home Instead really stood out to her, and she decided to apply.
At Home Instead, Barbara has found the fulfillment she was looking for. She gets a lot of satisfaction out of helping others, who express their gratitude with comments like “I don’t know what I would do without you!”
When it comes to her job, Barbara’s philosophy is the more you give, the more you get back. Listening to her clients talk about their life experiences and past adventures has given her a chance to learn new things. One learning experience involved a client of hers who had to read a 730-page biography of Frederick Douglass for a book club. Because the client’s eyesight was failing, Barbara read the book to her. “We had many wonderful moments as we explored the life of this 19-century persona,” says Barbara.
Home Instead’s training sessions have been very helpful to Barbara, and she has been impressed with their quality.