Carla Martino wasn’t specifically looking for a senior-care job during an online search one day, but she came across Kelly Hutchison’s award-winning Home Instead Senior Care® franchise in Elk Grove Village. The job description summarized what she’d done for five years for her husband Joe, who passed away in 2017.
“I thought if I could take care of my late husband, I could probably be a CAREGiver,” said Carla, who had built a successful 30-year career in hair styling that included a district manager’s position. With her husband’s passing, Carla was left to care for six children, including two in foster care. So, Carla needed flexible hours, which Home Instead provided. One year after joining Home Instead Senior Care, Carla was honored as the April CAREGiver of the Month.
Carla’s husband was a veteran, so he – and Carla indirectly – received help from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which provided funds for a licensed caregiver for 12 hours a week. “My husband didn’t want a caregiver. I told him, ‘You might not need a caregiver, Joe, but I definitely do,’ ” Carla said with a laugh.
Carla remembered how her husband complained about the first couple of VA-paid caregivers because he was so picky about compatible helpers. “My husband told me, ‘The caregiver doesn’t know how to play cards. What’s wrong with her?’ Well, the first caregiver had never played cards. I just shook my head. We finally found the right caregiver,” Carla said.
Putting things in perspective three years later, Carla said, “My husband was like a lot of male clients you might see. My husband was independent. Although he needed help, he didn’t want it. You have to be careful about how you help those guys, God love them. After they get to know you, they let you help them. That’s men. Women seem to give you the reins when you want to help, although they are usually more meticulous and want things done a certain way. Men aren’t that concerned with tiny details. No matter who they are, you must respect their wishes, After all, you are in their homes.”
Carla said she’s worked with clients who have been good, and she has experienced few problems. “When I ended up with a challenging client, I didn’t take it personally. I had to laugh – even his daughter warned me about his personality,” she said.
“I’ve got to point out our Home Instead office matches a CAREGiver’s capabilities to the clients’ needs. For instance, Lidia Lisowski, our staff manager, knows me and the rest of her CAREGiver group well. Also, as the clients’ conditions change, the office is on top of evaluating and keeping track of what they need,” Carla said.
“Working for Home Instead, things are as good as they can be. Our owner, Kelly Hutchison, is a good guy who runs a good franchise. I like them a lot because they are a quality, closely knit company. Everybody in the office works well together. They are good communicators.”
With the advent of COVID-19, Carla said, life has changed for everybody, and Home Instead Senior Care has been quick to react and adjust to the new norm.
“The franchise has given us gowns, a face shield, gloves and washable masks. We recently had a good training session in the parking lot during an early evening while practicing social distancing. The franchise has done as much as they can, and we know they are concerned about us CAREGivers because they make sure we’re equipped and educated with the most recent updates. I’d emphasize that Kelly has done a good job.”
In general, Carla agrees with isolation, especially with seniors, who are among the most vulnerable in society. “Gloves, masks, all the protective gear and practices – it’s necessary. In a facility, I saw a few workers hugging the residents to reinforce emotional support. But you can be kind without hugging. Let’s be honest – I’d emphasize you don’t want to take the chance to compromise the health of a client whether he or she is in a facility or at home,” Carla said.
“A vaccine will be needed for the whole world to get back to working. The good thing is that the whole world is working on a vaccine, and it will be shared. I grew up with polio. We didn’t have the technology back then when Salk came up with a vaccine that we have now.”
She added with a sigh: “TV coverage of the virus is too much. I don’t watch more than an hour of COVID-19 coverage, but the danger is not overblown. I disagree with some who say COVID-19 is no worse than the typical flu. I wash my hands 20 times a day. Good hygiene is a must. These are precious people we’re taking care of. Why not provide the best care that you can?"