Ocala (Change Location)

Oct 01, 2021

CAREGiver Spotlight - Maria C.

Written By: Brian Lahm for Home Instead of Ocala
Maria Forero-Cruz Caregiver Of The Month October 2021

Brother’s Job Recommendation Was Perfect for Maria

Welcome to Home Instead® of Ocala’s CAREGiver Spotlight. Each month, one of our amazing CAREGivers will be randomly selected to share their story with their peers — YOU. We know you will enjoy reading and learning more about Maria.

Maria’s brother knows his sister so well that when she began job hunting, he pointed her toward the Home Instead franchise that serves Marion County, including Silver Springs, Belleview and Summerfield. Working as a CAREGiver, her brother said, would be a good fit.

Her brother, a mental-health therapist, is well-acquainted with his sister’s big heart because she had been on missions trips while serving from their homeland of Colombia. For nine years, Maria had worked for Samaritan’s Purse, an American nonprofit organization that “provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”

Maria’s brother also is aware of her spirituality. Maria said: “I had always worked in missions where we preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ as well as helping the needy.” Interestingly, Home Instead’s core values include: Honor God in all we do and treat each other with dignity and respect.”

Finally, Maria needed a job with flexible hours, which most Home Instead franchises generally can accommodate. “I needed to work somewhere with a lenient work schedule because I have to drop off and pick up my 17-year-old daughter from school every day,” Maria said.

Maria’s American adventures began three years ago. “I came here with my younger daughter because my brother had invited me to come to study English. At the time, my oldest daughter had been in college in Virginia for a year. A month after I got here, I met my now husband, and we decided to live here. We received our residency only a year ago. With that, I also received my Social Security card, which meant I could start working,” Maria explained.

Factoring into Maria’s job search, which included her brother’s Home Instead recommendation is the fact that Maria had served as a family caregiver. “I had been caring for my father as he battled Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, I had dedicated my life to my two daughters, and I had looked after my three nieces. My oldest daughter suffered a lot of health issues in her earlier years. Because of that, I became very knowledgeable in caring for the sick and people in hospitals,” Maria said.

“With my Home Instead client, it feels as if it is the times when I took care of my daughters and nieces. And, in my client’s eyes, I can see my dad. In her, I see the vulnerability and fragility of being a human being, and it moves my heart. My client lives in her daughter and son-in-law’s home. From them, I have learned a great life lesson, which is their love, care and unconditional dedication to their mother. It’s incredibly beautiful to feel the love they have for her.”

A few days after Maria went on the internet and put her resume in a website. she received a call from Home Instead. “After CAREGiver training, I met a group of wonderful and very professional people who made me feel at home. So, I started working on February 2021,” said Maria, referring to owner Carolyn Quintanilla’s award-winning franchise.

The franchise’s home care consultant, Anthoni Simonelli, said, “Maria has an incredibly kind heart and a gentle personality. She is patient, understanding, considerate and any other characteristic you can imagine an amazing CAREGiver might possess.”

Maria feels blessed with her job. She said, “ ‘My Lady,’ as I like to call my client, is the most adorable person. She is 94 and has dementia. During my shift, I accompany her, provide personal care, sing and color with her, as well as dancing sometimes. We laugh a lot, for despite her illness, she still has her great sense of humor. Always, after work, I go home and tell my family funny anecdotes about ‘My Lady,’ or sing the songs to them that my client and I sing together.”

One of Maria’s favorite memories centered on the client’s singing ability. “One day when I said something in Spanish, she started singing ‘La Cucaracha,’ a very funny song in Spanish. She sang it with a perfect accent. It was very funny, hearing her. I treasure this story, and I could tell many more,” Maria recalled.

As it is with many people who have dementia, music is a pleasing experience for Maria’s client. According to researchers who consult with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, music can spark good outcomes even in the late stages of dementia.

Music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements. This happens, experts say, because rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by a part of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues.

Maria pointed out: “I have discovered that music connects her to her past. She gets so joyful when we sing and dance. It’s incredible to see how she remembers things of her early childhood years, such as lyrics from songs from the 1940s and 1950s. She remembers the names of the singers like Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, and Judy Garland, but she does not remember that she just had breakfast a minute ago.”

Maria credits her client with helping her to understand the American culture and history. “It has been such an enriching experience where I have been able to improve my English, and have been able to immerse myself in this country’s culture. I feel I have learned so much of the 1940s and 1950s because of that,” said Maria, who reaffirmed how senior care is a fulfilling endeavor.

Maria’s intuition indicates the client might be waiting for Maria when she arrives at 9 a.m. Maria explained: “When I get there, she is usually still in bed. I ask if she is still asleep, and she answers, ‘No. I was waiting for you.’ That makes me think that she recognizes me and is actually waiting for me every day even though I know that her short-term memory is completely lost.”

Maria added: “I believe working as a CAREGiver is an enriching experience that makes you a better human being, especially if you work in a company as compassionate and empathetic as Home Instead is,” Maria said.

All Home Instead CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (352) 622-6447 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead, visit our website.

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