The end of the year is a time for celebrations as well as reflections in our lives and our work. This time last year we were gathering heartbreaking and heartwarming stories from Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed so many homes and lives but also brought out the best in people who went above and beyond to help one another in the aftermath of the destruction.
It doesn’t take a national disaster to bring out the best in people though. Heroes are among us all the time and that is true in the home care business as in all walks of life.
Home care is a business that positively impacts lives every day—and some days, it even saves a life.
The husband of one Homewatch CareGivers’ client in Texas is giving thanks this year for the heroic choices made by LaShaun Lang, a 32-year old Certified Nursing Assistant, who works for Homewatch CareGivers of Plano, Lewisville and Greater North Dallas. Ms. Lang came to work where she expected to spend the day with a 68-year old client who suffers from COPD, CHF and diabetes. “She has a tremendous amount of health concerns,” said Wendy A. Raney, President of Homewatch CareGivers in Plano, Texas, of the client.
On a typical day, a caregiver would help the client get dressed, use the bathroom, make sure her oxygen was hooked up, prepare meals, move her in and out of her wheelchair and more. Homewatch CareGivers spends two days a week with this client while her husband is at work.
On this day, something was different. “The client was not her chipper self and did not want to eat breakfast,” explained Ms. Raney. “She wanted to rest longer than normal.”
LaShaun called the client’s husband who said that his wife had a rough night and would need more rest. After letting the woman take a one-hour nap, LaShaun woke the very lethargic woman and asked her some basic questions about what day it was and where she was, which the woman could not answer. Alarmed, she immediately called 911, rode in the ambulance with the woman and called her husband to explain the situation.
It turned out that one of her medications, Furosemide, is a diuretic used to control fluids and can lead to low potassium. In fact, this woman’s potassium levels were so low that doctors said she was near death. “I am completely proud of this young woman,” said Ms. Raney. “She went above and beyond and it could have been very tragic.”
Certainly it is not every day that caregivers find themselves in a life or death situation, but when they do, it is wonderful to know that they are capable of doing so much for others.
A full-time caregiver found out just how much backup caregivers can help out when her own family had a health crisis.
Jeanie is a live-in nurse and caregiver for Marge, who has dementia, depression and is bipolar and needs 24-hour care. When Jeanie’s daughter was suddenly hospitalized, caregivers from Homewatch CareGivers were able to change their own schedules and stay with Marge for the necessary 24-hour shifts while Jeanie care for her grandchildren and stayed close to her daughter in another city.
“Jeanie is picky about who cares for Marge and I think it really speaks to our ability to match caregivers that we have a small army of people in the wing in case Marge needs care,” said Kristin Smith, Care Service Coordinator for Homewatch CareGivers of Denver. Marge was fine and so was Jeanie, but Jeanie needed to be there for her family.
“For two days Jeanie was unsure if her daughter would even survive,” Ms. Smith said. “As a team we were able to take some stress off of her by letting her know we could successfully find caregivers to care for Marge while she was away and staff it with people who were up to her standards. One of her regular respite caregivers rearranged her schedule so she could stay with Marge as long as she needed. This is a 24-hour case and other caregivers dropped what they were doing as well to give this woman care, even overnight.”
Not all stories of caregivers stepping up involve a health crisis, but simply extending a hand of friendship—like Maile Sunderman, 22, who works for Homewatch CareGivers serving Denver, Aurora and Parker in Colorado, did when she volunteered to spend part of her Halloween night with a new client.
“I hung out and made sure the trick or treaters didn’t scare her,” she said of 91-year old Illie, who lives in Aurora. Since she was on her way to a party that night, Maile came to Illie’s house in her own Halloween costume. “She kept talking about how funny I am!”
This is the spectrum of home care—lifesaving measures from Ms. Lang in Texas to providing comfort and a few laughs on a festive night with Ms. Sunderman—throughout the year.
There might be some jobs out there better suited to a specific age in life, but caregiving can—and is—done by people from all ages and stages of life.
It might be time to start thinking about being together again. Well-being is not just about exercise and nutrition, but also relationships and emotional sturdiness.
Too much caregiving without support can lead to burnout and other ailments for a family caregiver. Learn how to avoid injury, stress, and maintain well-being.