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January 31, 2021

CAREGiver of the Month - January 2021

Written By: Brian Lahm for Home Instead of Waterford
Pam Wolf CGOTM January 2021

Client’s Daughter Gains ‘a Sister;’ It Was Pam

On an unforgettable day some years ago, one of CAREGiver Pam’s Home Instead® clients smiled and pointed to Pam while addressing his daughter: “You’ve always wanted a sister. Pam will be your sister from now on.” The meaning was clear: Pam was the client’s “second daughter,” but no offense was intended for his actual daughter. Pam explained: “The client and I bonded while watching TV westerns.” They also connected because Pam has multiple talents.

Pam, a handy soul who had been a partner with her husband in a tile-installation company, helped the client change the oil in his riding mower. He was in his 80s and had macular degeneration. Realizing Pam’s capabilities, the client showed her how to winterize the house where he, his wife and his daughter lived. One day, Pam was sitting next to her client in a doctor’s office when he was told of a bladder cancer diagnosis. 

“The doctor thought I was his daughter. The client wanted me there, and I heard everything. Things were fine with his busy family. In fact, when his family was around, I’d chat with them,” said Pam, who on July 3, 2010, joined the Home Instead franchise that serves North Oakland County, including Waterford, Clarkston, West Bloomfield and 15 other communities. Owner Glenna Yaroch’s award-winning franchise honored Pam as a CAREGiver of the Month during the first quarter of 2021. General Manager Gail M. Wilk announced the award.

Pam explained why she has spent more than 10 years as a Home Instead CAREGiver. “Caregiving is my passion,” Pam said. “I believe God helped me get this job, which I enjoy. For our generation, it is our turn to reciprocate the assistance we received from our seniors, either as family caregivers or in other capacities. In general terms, our parents changed our diapers and helped us every step of the way as we grew up.”

With a smile, Pam added: “I often get the grumpy, old men, and I usually can turn them into teddy bears.”

Pam is one of four daughters, and they help their 97-year-old father, an award-winning policeman and detective who twice served as the interim chief at a Michigan city’s police department. They also helped their father take care of their mother, who suffered from dementia for about 15 years and died at age 86 in 2018. As family caregivers, they were able to help keep their mother at home for all but the final three months of her life.

“My dad has congestive heart failure. He’s a fighter who is making peace with his situation. During his life, he has had three massive heart attacks. He’s also had bypass surgery, six stents and two pacemakers, but he keeps going. He has a strong faith in God. He wants to die in his own home,” Pam explained. “Dad is an incredible guy who was a 10th-grade dropout, originally worked for Ford, got his GED and eventually finished one class short of a master’s degree in criminal justice. Mom and Dad were married for 66 years. They eloped and later repeated their wedding vows in a church on their 50th anniversary. We daughters were the bridesmaids.”

Pam also is helping her husband Jim, who has severe emphysema and is on disability. “He fell and suffered pneumonia in both lungs in April 2020. Neither of us, thankfully, have had COVID-19,” Pam said. “He’s doing pretty well. I have client shifts six days a week, but I save Sunday for my husband. Jim has helped me, too, with medical recoveries. We were in a car accident in 2013, and I needed hip surgery.”

Although Pam originally was hired by Home Instead of Waterford, she also has helped nearby Detroit franchises in Farmington Hills, earlier known as Walled Lake, and in Livonia. The original Waterford owner praised Pam almost immediately after she started. The owner received a phone call from a grateful daughter of a hospice client who died four days after Pam began helping him. Pam advocated strongly for the client in two challenging situations with medical and nursing-home personnel, and he did not want Pam to leave him. Pam was holding his hand as he passed away.

Over the years, Pam has helped all different kinds of personalities and faced many challenges. It took six months for one client to fully accept Pam, but it has been smooth sailing for 2½ years after that. With another client, a 90-year-old man told his daughter of Pam’s superior efforts, and the daughter continues to request Pam even though the two have never met.

With a laugh, Pam said: “I try to be that one bighearted child who always comes back and helps mom and dad. I’ll do this as long as I can, probably as long as I am healthy. I’m 70, and I’ve been doing this work for more than 10 years. At one of the other franchises where I helped, a CAREGiver retired at age 80. That tells you how much she liked the job. I do, too.”

All Home Instead CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (248) 886-7300 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead, visit our website.