Friends and family say Home Instead® Care Professional of the Month Helen Ray really is the Energizer Bunny™ in human form. If it seems Helen is always in perpetual motion, it’s because she is. Helen said she loves having two jobs, and she sleeps fine and catches a nap when she can.
On weekday afternoons and evenings, Saturdays and even some Sundays, Helen skillfully and compassionately helps seniors and their families on behalf of owner Kelly Hutchison’s award-winning Home Instead® franchise in Itasca, Illinois. “I worked on Mother’s Day for Home Instead, which was fine because I already had celebrated my Mother’s Day with my kids on the Friday before. It worked out OK. I do emergency shifts when possible,” Helen said.
On the weekdays, during early morning-to-early afternoon shifts, Helen works for a major home improvement retailer, including two days as a bookkeeper.
“I’ve always worked two jobs. It’s something I really like to do. I am comfortable with the routine,” said Helen, who has worked for Home Instead for about a year and a half, and for the retailer for three years. Helen was in the car business for 30 years, worked in daycare for 15 years and volunteered for a senior-assistance program for several years in Chicago before moving to the suburbs. The commonality in all of her jobs and activities is the fact Helen is a “people-person” who has a big heart.
Referring to her responsibilities with the seniors program in Chicago, Helen said: “I would volunteer to take seniors to the store, do errands with them … things like that, and we would host a Christmas dinner for them. Seniors are cool.” Helen never lost that feeling. When Home Instead posts kept coming up on her Facebook page, Helen decided to apply.
Helen was ready for challenging situations as a Care Pro. She had served as a family caregiver for three years for her mother, who passed away at age 69 in 2010. “Mom had lymphoma, and it was not curable at the time, but it is now. She was in hospice and was suffering,” Helen recalled. In 2011, a year after her mother died, Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer and persevered through 33 chemotherapy treatments. It’s easy to see that Helen is able to commiserate with clients who are battling with physical challenges or have lost loved ones.
Among Helen’s six regular clients, all but one live in the same care community that is only a five-minute drive from Helen’s home. Helen and her fellow Care Pros are important components to their clients’ care at the care community because it is back in “lockdown” because of the rise of COVID-19 and its subvariants. “The pool is closed, and so is the computer room. They are eating in their rooms. There is another feeling of isolation for the residents,” Helen said.
Helen has had many memorable days with a couple. The wife is 98, and she is the client. Her husband is 99. “They are both sharp mentally. The two of them are so funny. We are laughing all the time. I talk to the husband a lot, and the wife jokes to her husband: “You know that Helen is here for me, right?’ ” Helen said with a laugh.
The husband was a World War II military pilot who has pictures and a lot of stories. “During World War II, he flew commercial aircraft that had been converted to military use. He was flying back and forth between the United States and England. His stories fascinated me,” Helen said. “I asked them if they thought they’d live this long, and the response was ‘not in a million years.’ I take my mask off so she can read my lips, otherwise I always wear a mask when I am with my clients. I am very cautious and conscientious about COVID-19 prevention.”
Another client likes to watch documentaries. Helen said, “I engage him by asking such questions as ‘How did you meet your wife?’ We’ve been known to play a game of hearts for three hours, and I let him win.” Another client has dementia and “sometimes takes forever to get dressed.” Helen added: “She’s funny, and she’s always happy. She will put off getting dressed, and I have to sometimes help before the three-hour shift ends. I don’t want to push the issue, but sometimes I have to do it in a nice but firm way.”
The Home Instead staff is thrilled with Helen’s velvet touch with the clients. Digital Brand Manager Mia Tatone announced Helen’s honor as Care Pro of the Month for May. Asked how much longer she can continue with both jobs, Helen said: “I have no planned end game. I want to keep this pace as long as I can. I’ll know when I can’t, and I’ll make adjustments.”