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September 19, 2022

Care Professional of the Month - Karen G.

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Karen’s life had come to a crossroads. She had been a successful long-time restaurant manager. But on one surprising day, her restaurant closed. News traveled quickly, and because of her sparkling reputation, Karen had several options. Other restaurants owners contacted her about applying at their establishments.

 

Karen gave it some thought and said, “Restaurant work is tough stuff. I was up at 4 a.m., and I wouldn’t get home until 3 or 4 p.m. It takes a toll on a person.”

 

She added, “I thought: ‘Do I go back to restaurant management? Or do I try senior care?’ I wasn’t getting any younger, so I chose caregiving. I decided to go into private-duty caregiving, where I could set my schedule with better flexibility as well as feeling fulfilled about what I was doing.”

 

Karen assisted the same client for three years, the mother of one of Karen’s friends. The work commute was perfect – the client lived just a block from Karen. But more than three years ago, Karen lost her client, a sad occurrence that happens sooner or later in senior care. What next? Karen thought. “Then my husband’s cousin saw Home Instead® at a job fair and gave me their information,” said Karen, who joined owner Kelly Hutchison’s award-winning Home Instead franchise in Itasca, Illinois, in October 2019.

 

The positives about working for Home Instead were many.

 

Karen said, “Home Instead is really great. You can make your own hours. The schedulers are willing to work with you. They offer bonuses for weekend shifts. So, yes, I like Home Instead. They appreciate you and show it. As we worked through the worst of COVID-19, we could get additional hours because some people opted not want to work for fear of getting ill. Kelly Hutchison is a very good owner. From time to time, he calls us Care Pros to see how each of us is doing. I love it.”

 

Referring to Home Instead clients, Karen said: “In general, we get so close to them. It’s awful to lose them. But I believe it’s such a good situation that I will continue with Home Instead as long as they are happy with me.”

 

Karen has two regular clients, both of whom are military veterans. One client just turned 103 years old, and Karen assists him during six-hour shifts on weekdays although he doesn’t have 24/7 care. There’s a good reason why Karen has been the client’s only Care Pro for most of the past 18 months: He does not want anyone else.

 

With a chuckle, Karen said: “He doesn’t like too many people. He’s a pistol and is set in his ways just as many seniors are. It took a week or two for him to warm up to me. He’s very picky.  He is self-sufficient in many ways and uses a walker. I help with light housekeeping and meal preparation, and I provide a shower assist.”

 

So, how did Karen win over her client?

 

“I talk to him, engage him. I watch baseball and football with him because I am also a sports fan. I am there with him in front of the TV when the games are going. He likes both the White Sox and Cubs, but he is more of a White Sox fan because he is more of a ‘south-sider.’ I am a Cubs fan, a ‘north-sider,’ ” Karen said with a chuckle.

 

The client, who receives frequent visits from his two sons, lives alone. He has tried living in a care community three or four times, but he always has returned to a house. Karen explained: “He makes the attempt and then tells his sons, ‘Take me home.’ He most recently lived at a new VA care community at no cost because of his veteran’s status. But he went home after one month. He should be able to choose what he wants as long as he’s safe.”

 

For most of his life, her client “has done it his way.” Karen said: “He was a self-employed bricklayer. He also bought property and owned car washes, laundry mats and apartments. He likes to use his hands; he’s always been a handy guy. Last year, I helped him repair his screens in his back porch. This year is different. He now is seldom in his workshop.”

 

The client is a living, breathing history book. “He does talk about his Army days. He is a World War II veteran who was part of the Normandy Beach assault. He suffered blast injuries during the invasion and was hospitalized for seven months. His hearing was affected. His wife was pregnant when he left for the war, and because of his hospitalization overseas, he didn’t meet his son until he was 15 months old,” Karen said.

 

His wife has been gone for 12 years, having passed away at age 88. His sons live 15 or 20 minutes away, and they visit all the time. Sadly, his oldest son died a few years ago. His other sons are 66 and 71. Rather than setting a longevity goal, the client sometimes wonders when he will join his wife and son. “He tries to live life as well as he can, but he’s tired and worn out. He’s not looking forward to 105. He misses his wife,” Karen said.

 

Karen also enjoys helping her other regular client, an 89-year-old Korean War veteran who lives with his wife. She assists the client three days a week during three-hour shifts. “I like him and his wife. Like my 103-year-old client, I’ve also been with him about a year and a half,” Karen said. “It is an honor to serve two men who served our country.”