Care Professional of the Month Anita Anderson found Home Instead® years ago in a most unusual way when she was living in Tucson, Arizona, a 1,750-mile drive from the award-winning Home Instead franchise in Itasca, Illinois, where she works now.
In Tucson, Anita was assisting a senior as a private-duty caregiver. “I was introduced to the vulnerable adult who was isolated from her family, and I was in the position to move her from an undesirable situation and reconnect her to her family. She remained safely in my care for another two years,” explained Anita, who later moved from Tucson to Illinois to be closer to family.
While she was helping the senior in Tucson, Anita was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer in a startling development that came two years after her husband had passed away from colon cancer. “I underwent aggressive chemo and radiation treatments, as well as major surgeries, so I knew I needed to get additional care for my client. I called Home Instead of Tucson,” Anita recalled.
“When Home Instead first visited, the staff member said, ‘We can cook for you, too.’ Apparently the Home Instead staff member recognized my health issues. I teared up and thought, ‘You want to take care of me, too?’ I had always been the caregiver and never thought about someone helping me. It was then when I realized I wanted to work for Home Instead.”
Fast forward to Anita’s move to Chicagoland. Exactly one year after joining Home Instead of Itasca, Anita was selected as its August Care Pro of the Month, Digital Brand Manager Mia Tatone announced.
“What I like most about my job as a Home Instead Care Pro is, of course, caring for my clients and helping their families. I never forget about the families because they need us as much as our older adults do. And, I love Home Instead! I have had the privilege of working for two locations, and the teamwork can be pretty incredible,” Anita said.
“What I like specifically about Home Instead’s Itasca franchise is working for franchise owner Kelly Hutchison, who listens to his employees. Not only does he listen, but Kelly truly cares about each of us. He takes the time to call to see how we are doing with our jobs and our clients. Kelly makes sure we are never overwhelmed by giving us tools to help get through a hard day. I am honored and blessed to be working for him.”
Anita’s mother recently returned home after spending 31 days in the hospital, including five days in the ICU, as a result of suffering a severe stroke. When Anita told her mother about the Care Pro of the Month honor, Anita’s mother smiled and replied, “And you are mine.”
Anita’s journey to Home Instead began years ago as Anita closely observed her grandmother. “I grew up every day watching and learning from an amazing family caregiver, my grandmother. She took care of my aunt, who was stricken with polio at age 16 and became a quadriplegic. Specifically, my aunt was paralyzed from the neck down and was respirator dependent. Polio did not hold her back in many respects. Although my aunt couldn’t make it to her graduation, she received her graduate degree from her bed, thanks to ‘Ma Bell,’ ” Anita explained.
“As a child, I hadn’t realized the value of what I was learning from my grandmother and her care for my aunt. However, as an adult, I feel blessed that a caregiving bent to life – as I came to know it – is why everything comes naturally with senior care. For instance, I had learned how to have patience, empathy, respect and other traits.”
Anita has compiled a lifetime of achievement in caregiving. She became a dietary aid at age 17 and went on to become a CNA. “In 1995, I became a live-in caregiver for an adult care home (assisted living) while going to college where I landed an Associate of Arts degree. However, it was working at the adult care home when I knew it was what I was supposed to do,” Anita said.
In 2009, Anita received a national license as residential facility administrator from Las Vegas, Nevada, and in 2016 became a licensed assisted living facility manager in Arizona. After officially being declared a cancer survivor three years ago, Anita decided she wanted to work as Home Instead Care Pro.
There is more on the horizon for Anita. “In May 2022,” she said, “I began the process of incorporating my Blue Ribbon of Hope, a nonprofit organization to help those battling colorectal cancer. We are still in the early stages with event planning and are not taking donations yet. It is yet another way that I can help others.”