I’d like to share my experiences as an In-Home Care Provider
Caring for the elderly is a rewarding experience in many ways. Seniors are extremely vulnerable and require special attention. Their lives can be incredibly lonely, and a good caregiver can meet that need in many ways, sometimes being their sole companion. And one of the most rewarding benefits of caring for seniors is the relationships developed. Often the elderly receiving the care see their caregiver as “family.”
My First Caregiving Experience
My first experience as a senior caregiver was for my next door neighbor who was bedridden.
Her husband was her only support; she had no family or friends to help. I had recently moved to the area, and it quickly became apparent how difficult it was for them both. To allow him some free time, I was hired to sit with her during her lunch hour. I would arrive around 11:30 and prepare her food (she ate the same thing every day), give her her pills, visit with her and watch the Golden Girls, her favorite show. She’d laugh and laugh.
The only difficult part was that her commode was in the same room. So I had to make sure it was kept clean, which meant dumping it if it was full when I arrived. Sometimes, she’d use the commode while I was there in the room with her. I had to help her get on it and then dump and clean it.
I was a single mother at the time, so the job provided a little extra income. It was a beneficial relationship for all of us. It also gave me some experience with senior care. The experience came in handy when my grandmother needed a temporary in-home care provider.
Caregiving for My Grandmother
After my grandfather passed away, there was a time that my grandmother (suffering dementia) was home alone and needed someone to be with her around the clock. While the family worked on finding a suitable home for her, I was privileged to stay with her for a couple of weeks.
Her dementia was not too severe, so we had some great times together, even celebrating New Year’s Eve. But with any level of dementia, there are extra demands on an in-home care provider. The job (though not for pay) was full time, 24-hours a day. She lived in a private cottage in a retirement village, so, thankfully, her meals were prepared for her. Not having to cook made my job much more manageable.
One thing I learned during my trips to the dining hall was that seniors move at a slower pace than younger people. Walking to dinner could take 10 or more minutes. The time it took was not the issue; it was just difficult to walk so slow, keeping an eye on my grandmother the whole time, opening doors so she could get through with her walker. The pace was hard for me to adjust to, and it made me feel tired and lazy.
Other tasks included making sure she took her medication each day on schedule, providing snacks as needed, making her bed, tucking her in at night, making sure she took showers (never a favorite for seniors), assisting her to the restroom, helping her get dressed in the morning and getting her pajamas on at night.
But my favorite part was working on a quilt project that she had never finished. I didn’t know how to sew, so she had to guide me through the basics. Her hands were too shaky to do the work herself, but she was sharp enough to teach me.
Choosing to be a Caregiver Professionally
Eventually, I decided I would explore becoming a professional senior care provider.
I applied to a local agency, interviewed for the position, shared why I felt I would be a good fit and got hired for the job. I was a little fearful of working for someone that I did not know. But the company offered excellent training and worked hard to pair up their caregivers with someone who shared similar interests.
The company also offered specialized training for Alzheimer’s patients and those who needed “personal care” attention. I took as many classes as I could and became certified in both Alzheimer’s care and personal care. Thankfully, I was able to train while I worked with clients.
I worked with a few different people until I found a regular client that was the perfect fit for me. It was an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. C, where Mrs. C had Alzheimer’s. They were beautiful people in a nice neighborhood. I stayed with them for a long time. When I finally had to leave due to a move, it was tough to say goodbye. Mr. C told me that I was like a daughter to him. The friendships that develop when caring for seniors are inevitable and very sweet.
My primary responsibility was to be a companion to Mrs. C and take her to the bathroom whenever she requested, which was about every five minutes. Usually, she didn’t remember that we had just gotten back. But the companionship was easy. We would look through photo albums, read Mr. C’s memoirs, talk about different topics (usually about her past), read poetry, listen to music or even watch television. I even had the opportunity to play the piano.
The couple had a lovely baby grand in the living room. Mr. C used to be a brilliant musician, even having a band back in the days of his youth. However, age had taken a toll on his ears, and he could not hear notes correctly. Mrs. C would let me tinker on the piano from time to time, even though I could only play beginner music. But when Mr. C was around, I didn’t want to bother him.
Other responsibilities included cooking meals, taking them shopping (I would drive their car), helping Mrs. C get up in the morning, getting her in the shower, picking out her clothes and helping her get dressed.
Working with an Alzheimer’s patient in her condition was harder than helping my grandma with mild dementia. I had to use tricks and tactics to get her to comply with ordinary tasks like taking a shower. The Alzheimer’s training I received was indispensable. I could not have done the job well without it.
We had fun times too. Mrs. C used to be a master crocheter. She had photo albums filled with pictures of her projects, many of which she donated to charity. My grandmother had taught me to crochet (before she had dementia), so I bought some yarn and found a pattern, and we crocheted matching scarves. I did the crocheting, and she held the ball of yarn, unwinding it as I needed more.
Even though, Mrs. C couldn’t remember how to crochet (or what she had done five minutes earlier), she did remember how to make Polish Christmas Stars. And with a few struggles, she taught me how to make them too. I still have one of the stars we made together in my box of treasures.
Though the relational aspects of being a senior caregiver are very enriching, I found myself struggling again with the slow pace. The work is not difficult. It is rewarding and fun. But the pace can be a little too slow, which for me is very tiring. But for someone looking for a way to earn money in a laid-back, slow-paced environment, I would definitely suggest looking into becoming a caregiver.
One could make the case that it is the ideal job.