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March 31, 2022

A Top-Notch Scientist, Brianna Is Also An Award-Winning CAREGiver

Brianna Merrill Louisville 397 March 2022 Pix 2

Home Instead® CAREGiver of the Month Brianna Merrill has a uniquely wide spectrum of interests and strong proficiencies to go with them. Long before Brianna worked as a scientist in a cellular engineering laboratory after earning a college degree in molecular and cellular biology, she was a family caregiver, a really good one, too. She is a kind soul who had helped her sister, a grandmother and others.

Brianna’s younger sister Cassie, now 20 years old, has cerebral palsy. She has endured five major operations and uses a walker to get around. “She is a great person who is really independent, and she is figuring out how to live independently. While our parents were her primary caregivers, I gave emotional support, as well as helped with her daily physical care needs,” said Brianna, who also served as a camp counselor and high-ropes course manager for people who have special needs. Cassie is a state ambassador for Best Buddies International and has also been an ambassador for Easter Seals.

Brianna and her family lived in California until she was 12 years old. Then they moved to Illinois, where Brianna’s maternal grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease. Brianna went with her mother when she took care of her grandma. “I had quite a bit of experience with her care because I was 20 or 21 when she passed away in her early 90s. My grandmother was cool. She had an identical twin, but because of her dementia, she did not recognize her. ‘G-ma’ was able to stay home for quite a while before her needs became more than we could handle. She was in a skilled nursing home for less than a year before she died,” Brianna recalled.

Meanwhile, Brianna lived in Illinois for 15 years. She attended colleges in California and Illinois, and she earned her degree at Illinois State University. In her scientific realm, Brianna was in high demand. After she landed a job with a large company, she eventually managed a small group of people while also tending to her own lab work. “I worked in the cellular engineering department with a focus on optimization of bacterial growth for scale-up to industrial production. I was responsible for overseeing, coordinating, and performing daily experiments with a small group of people as well as analyzing and presenting experimental data,” Brianna said.

Brianna and her husband, who works at a bio-tech job, moved to Colorado at the end of 2019. At that time, Brianna began to pivot in her work life because she wanted to work more with people and help as she did during her family caregiving days and her time as a camp counselor. Recalling the routine of her Illinois job, Brianna said, “I was a scientist eight hours a day. I had to commute an hour to work, and it took a lot of time out of my day.”

In Colorado, a friend told Brianna about Home Instead, owner Michael Lammers’ award-winning franchise of Boulder, Broomfield and northwest Adams Counties. Working for the office situated in Louisville, Colorado, Brianna’s friend was CAREGiver who took CNA classes and is working now as a CNA. In mid-March 2021, Brianna entered professional senior care for the first time. A year later, she was honored as a CAREGiver of the Month.

“When I talked to the Home Instead staff, I let them know being a CAREGiver would not be permanent. It is like an interlude in my life. I am looking forward to figuring out where life will take me. I enjoy the person-centric appeal of this job. I have had an interest in the medical field and once considered becoming a doctor,” she said.

Many of Brianna’s clients have dementia, and she works one to two overnight shifts a week. She works as part of several 24/7 CAREGiver teams. Describing her caregiving approach, Brianna said: “I have a more broad attitude and interaction with seniors to meet them where they are and help them with changing needs. I try to keep things lighthearted because that takes away the uncomfortable feeling. One client loves puns. The puns are pretty great, and they come out of nowhere. But after a while, you smile and groan if the day is full of puns,” Brianna said with a laugh.

Brianna has several clients who are interested in animals, and she pursues that line of engagement as one of her personalized paths to client companionship. “I own a cute rabbit, and I show pictures of my rabbit on my cellphone and tell the clients about its antics,” Brianna said. 

“Animals connect with the clients, and pets are even more important, even the barn cats. I go to two places out in the country with outdoor cats. There is a formerly scraggly barn cat – named ‘Kitty Cat’ —  that a CAREGiver befriended and tamed. It greets me at the car when I arrive. ‘Kitty Cat’ has spent over a decade outside. The client watches the cats through the window.”

Recruitment and Engagement Coordinator Rianne Matthews said: “What is important to the clients is important to Brianna. She has a warm heart that makes caring for others seem so natural. We appreciate her attention to her clients, both in going above and beyond to meet their needs and in noticing changes in her seniors’ health and needs. Her warm, courteous nature goes a long way in providing quality care and in being a great team member. We are proud to call her a Home Instead CAREGiver!”

All Home Instead CAREGivers are screened, trained and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (720) 890-0184 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead, visit our website.