On Oct. 11, 2021, at age 58, Alan Delmar joined Kelly Hutchison’s award-winning Home Instead® franchise in Itasca, Illinois. His winding journey to Home Instead began about two years earlier when he received “unhappy news” about his physical condition and retired from a highly successful electronics career that had stretched for almost 40 years. “I wanted to get my health challenge under control,” Alan recalled.
After Alan retired, he stayed around the house, where his wife works remotely. After a while, she jokingly said, “I don’t care how much or how little money you would make, but you need to find something to do and get the heck out of the house.” Alan chuckled while recounting the story. “I decided I wanted to do something where I was giving back to society, and I wanted to make a little bit of money. I have a love for people and animals. I was thinking of helping the elderly or working with animals. I gravitated toward humanity,” he said.
Alan offered several wide-ranging thoughts to explain why he considered senior care after working in the world of high-end electronics. “I’ve always had compassion in my heart. When I was a kid, I got those Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon backyard carnival kits and raised money for the cause in my neighborhood,” he said.
Alan recounted a touching family situation: “My mother-in-law was diagnosed with dementia 12 years ago. She moved from Florida back to Michigan to be closer to family, and that was my first experience related to caregiving. Our family hired a good private-duty caregiver. As her life was ebbing away, she was in the hospital during COVID-19. She could not have visitors, but she still wanted to visit with us. We had to say our goodbyes over FaceTime. It was heartbreaking.”
He added: “My jobs in electronics helped me for senior care because I was dealing with people all the time, whether it was customers in retail or as a trainer with employees and vendors. I interacted with all kinds of personalities. One required quality was patience. I built trust by showing people how to use devices,” he said. “After I retired, I saw caregiving commercials on TV. I noted details such as flexible scheduling and the opportunity to work with good people.”
After a disappointing attempt to try to work for another agency, Alan found Home Instead. During the interview process that moved along quickly, he spoke with four people, including owner Kelly. “He is the nicest guy. In my mind, I was thinking maybe they were wondering, ‘Why is this person applying to be a Care Pro?’ I thought maybe they never expected me to stay around, but that truly was not the case,” Alan said.
On Alan’s first assignment, he went to assist a strong-willed and challenging client who was not ready to be helped – by anyone. “I thought, ‘Wow. This is not going so well.’ I do have perseverance because it took me 10 years to get that college degree, and I did it while I was working full time,” explained Alan, who graduated from La Salle University in 1995 with a major in business administration and minor in psychology. “I ended up moving to other clients. I have experienced many different kinds of clients, including hospice and dementia. I finally made the top level of training. I now have two regular clients.”
In November, Human Resources Manager Alina Merrill announced Alan had been honored as the franchise’s Care Pro of the Month. His clients and their families have praised Alan’s care. He has clients in the morning and afternoon. Alan said, “I love those clients, and they love me.”
Alan has been with the 84-year-old morning client since Alan’s second or third week with Home Instead and went from three weekday mornings to five. “When my Friday morning opened, this client’s wife called me. He is a big guy, and I help him with physical therapy. There are two sessions daily, his lower body in his hospital bed and then his upper body after we move him with a Hoyer lift,” Alan said.
“A recipient of hip surgery earlier this year, he needs knee surgery but must strengthen his hip before he can have it. We want to get him to at least be able to use a walker. After the PT is done, there are about 25 minutes left for other things. That’s when I get to know them better. His wife knows when she needs help and lets me do everything I can to help. To see a client’s condition get better makes me feel good.”
Alan’s 62-year-old afternoon client lives about a mile from his morning client. “I’ve been with him for about three months. We have bonded, and his wife trusts me. He has a degenerative condition and is at the start of hospice. He is frustrated when he has to talk with more than one- or two-word responses. He can still eat and walk, but he just needs help.. I use a gait belt when we go for walks,” Alan said.
“He loves music, so we listen and sing together. We don’t have good singing voices, but that’s OK. He plays the music. It’s from my era, too, which is 1970s and 1980s Top 40 music. I play music trivia with him and plan it so the responses are one word, such as, ‘Who is the artist or group and what is the song title?’ ”
“He knows who I am when I arrive. He told me when I first came to care for him that I was there to give his wife and adult son a break from his care. When I get there, they leave to get their errands done. I give him the best three hours I can. I am the primary Care Pro, and they prefer to go without a Care Pro if I am not there.”
Alan prefers to be with his regular clients as much as possible, but he is cognizant of caregiving burnout. “The office staff told me if I feel burnout coming on, call them and they will adjust my schedule or do something. They don’t want me to quit without saying anything. I have to be good for my wife and daughter,” said Alan, whose daughter is majoring in educational policy and teaching at the University of Wisconsin. “It helps that I take an annual extended vacation to Florida in the winter with my wife, and I have done that for years. I feel blessed.”
Alan intends to stay with Home Instead. “It will depend on my health. The people are great. It’s nice to hear this when I leave a shift: ‘We look forward to seeing you next time.’ One day after I clocked out, one couple asked me to stay and have a beer. Since I was off the clock, I did. We already have a relationship, but a time of relaxation with them built it even better,” Alan said.
Home Instead Care Professionals are screened, trained and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (847) 690-9825 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead, visit our website.