Neal Discovered Music Soothed a Client
CAREGiver of the month Neal Fleming took the time to ask. More importantly, he took the time to understand. Who would have known a client, in the late stages of Lou Gehrig's disease, loved music? The client's favorites ranged from the heavy metal sound of "Twisted Sister" to Madonna to classical piano.
"He loved all kinds of music, but I don't think anyone at his care community knew. The client had not heard music in a long time until I joined him as a CAREGiver last April, after I started with Home Instead®," Neal explained.
"When I first started, we ran out of things with which to talk after about two or three days. I thought, 'What do we do now?' Then I learned he liked music, and that opened a door. He indicated the wide range of music styles he loved. He remembered all the music; his brain was very sharp. When I was home, I'd research old music to see if I could throw him off by playing a song he never heard. That never happened. 'Twisted Sister' probably generated the biggest smile. With the big smiles, I'd get a picture for his sister."
The client was difficult to understand, and he was frustrated when others didn't understand him. For Neal, comprehension took a while but came together so well that the veteran nursing staff asked Neal what the client was trying to communicate. "We had gotten so connected that his nurses would ask me, 'Now, what'd he say?' They asked me how I did it," Neal recalled.
Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is an incurable nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. ALS may present with voice difficulties as the primary symptoms in 10 to 15 percent of patients, and speech may be spastic, strained or slurred.
Sadly, the client passed away about two months ago. "I really liked him. I was with him a day before he passed away. I was not totally shocked. I was very sad to see him go," Neal said. "In taking care of him, I got into a rhythm. The shifts could be long, but I like challenges like this, and I never felt burned out."
Neal works with another client at the same care community who lived in close proximity to the ALS client. Before his ALS client died, Neal alternated days between the two clients and spent seven days a week at the facility.
Recruitment and Engagement Coordinator Rianne Matthews said: "Neal has been phenomenal from the get-go. He has been serving clients in the facility, and he has inspired praise from their staff, which is a difficult feat. The family of a past client was amazed at how he connected with its loved one. Neal helped the client video-chat with his family at a time when visitors were banned because of COVID-19. Neal even put Madonna videos on the TV for the client as part of the client's music requests."
Rianne added: "The family of Neal's current client praises Neal's kindness and professionalism, and the family points out Neal always keeps his client safe. Neal quietly goes above and beyond and does not expect any recognition. He makes a difference for his clients. Overall, Neal has built strong relationships with clients at the care community, where we take care of lots of residents. We are proud to have Neal with us."
Seven months after Neal joined owner Michael Lammers' award-winning Home Instead franchise of Boulder and Broomfield Counties, he was honored as CAREGiver of the Month. The Louisiana native said: "I love my job. I love connecting with my clients."
Neal had never worked in professional senior care before joining the Home Instead office in Louisville. But Neal had been a family caregiver. "My stepmother was diagnosed with dementia, and I helped with her care. She is doing really well and has been able to stay at home. My dad retired so he could become a full-time family caregiver," Neal said. "Before she was diagnosed, I knew something was wrong. I thought maybe it involved her medications. Dad is good with her."
Neal's current client has dementia, but he remembers Neal's name. Neal, working 12-hour overnight shifts, assists the client four nights a week. "He was my first client. He's very pleasant and is all smiles when I arrive. He normally sleeps fairly well, but if his back pain flares, he could be up all night," Neal said.
"He considers me a friend, and he looks after me. He has asked the CNAs, 'Can this man eat breakfast with me?' because he receives all meals in his room. He is thinking of me, but I turn down the offer because I'm ready to go out the door as my shift ends at 7 a.m. For me, every day with him is a good day. Even his bad days aren't too tough, He just doesn't talk quite as much."
Because of COVID-19, Neal believes he'll remain a CAREGiver for a while. "In the past, I had not stayed in one place for very long because I like to get out and travel. I've been in Asia, including India, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia and other countries. But now we're in the COVID-19 era, so I'm staying put," Neal said.
Home Instead CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, provide a variety of in-home services to help keep seniors independent. For inquiries about employment with Home Instead Senior Care, please call 720-432-4956. For further information, visit www.homeinstead.com/397/home-instead-senior-care