Bethany [Schad, owner] and I recently chatted with three of our caregivers about why they chose caregiving as a profession and how they feel about working for Dignity Home Care Professionals. The abbreviated version of this interview can be found in the 2018 Fall Issue of Pittsburgh’s Fifty Five Plus Magazine.
DHCP: Why did you become a caregiver?
Joel Carroll: After a 22-year career as a professional land surveyor, I moved out west after my kids were grown. I started working for a non-profit that provided services for the elderly and that led to my working with private clients.
Kelly Weaver: I was a respiratory therapist for 23 years in a hospital. I’m a nurturer, but I didn’t like working in the hospital for a big corporation. I find that I prefer working one-on-one with my in-home clients. I love these old people! I love learning from them. I love this job. My clients give me so much by sharing where they’ve been and what they know.
Deborah Cale: I started caregiving part-time when my kids were small. It changed my life.
DHCP: In what way, Deborah?
Deborah: It was a wonderful feeling filling a need for people who were socially isolated. My clients were all private duty, and I took care of my father when he was dying. It’s just rewarding. I get far more out of it than what I put into it.
DHCP: What made you choose Dignity?
Kelly: I love it here! I didn’t want to work for another big corporation. You were local and I liked that.
Joel: I agree. You’re local and independent. You’re not a franchise and in some ways you’re reinventing the wheel. You take the time to know the people who work for you. I moved back to Pittsburgh to be near my daughter and was handing out flyers for the Senior Center here in Bellevue when we first met. I came in to apply a few days later.
Kelly: We can talk to you. You’re real people. Hana carried me when my daughter died. I called on a really bad day and Hana said, “Come in.” She dropped everything and listened to me for two hours. No other boss is going to do that.
Deborah: No, they’re not. I saw an article about you in a magazine [2017 Summer Issue Pittsburgh’s Fifty Five Plus Magazine] and then I was walking by and saw the sign. I loved the name and once I met you, I was sold. This is where I wanted to work.
DHCP: What is the best part of this job?
Deborah: The intimate one-on-one bonding. Getting to know someone intimately. I can find out what their needs are and what they really want. There’s such a bonding and a trust between us. I can change people’s lives! I love doing extra nice things for my clients, like doing their hair, putting their earrings on… things to make them feel special.
Joel: It is the one-on-one. With the bosses, too. It’s that relationship that helps create the intimacy with the client. It’s circular. We’re all connected.
Kelly: And you care about our mental health. We can tell you our problems. This whole experience of working with you has brought me closer to God.
Deborah: Amen, sister!
Joel: Plus, I need a flexible schedule and you worked with me by moving the time in order to accommodate that schedule. That’s something I really appreciate. And I like the variety. I really like the changes that go with the industry.
DHCP: Joel and Deborah, you provide care both in-home and in facilities. Why do you think care is important for people in assisted living?
Deborah: Again, it’s the one-on-one companionship. People in facilities need some extra TLC. There just isn’t enough staff to provide it. I can take my client out of her room and walk around the facility or go outside on nice days. Otherwise, she’s isolated in her room. I’m not even sure if she knows what’s going on, but I think it’s important for her to have some mental stimulation.
DHCP: At 104, I doubt others would give her the kind of attention you do, Deborah. You also take care of her hearing aids and you just arranged for her to get her hair cut, didn’t you?
Deborah: Oh my, yes. She really needed it!
DHCP: What about you, Joel?
Joel: I shower my client with attention and she loves it. The staff even comes up to me and says, “Thank God you’re here today. She’s so much better when you’re here.” She has Alzheimer’s and sometimes she’s very funny. I just go with wherever her imagination takes us. I invent games for her. She loves to go outside. We both love trees and have so much in common. I feel really lucky.
DHCP: What kind of caregiving services do you provide for Dignity clients?
Kelly: I do it all – whatever they want me to do. I dance and sing while my client is doing her exercise pedal thing. I cook for her. Clean up. Make the bed. Clean her potty seats. She’s such a joy to me. I love to hear her voice.
DHCP: Joel, you’ve worked with quite a variety of clients for us, ranging in age from our oldest client, who was 104 when she passed to our youngest, a man in his 40s with brain cancer. You’ve been in facilities and in private homes. Is there a difference?
Joel: In-home care is very different – it’s more about letting the client set the tone and pace. It’s all client-based. I like to be goofy, but it’s always dependent on the goofiness of the client.
DHCP: What is the most difficult part about working in this industry?
Kelly: Getting up at 7:30!
Joel: Keeping my opinions about anything out of it.
Deborah: Agreed. Keeping your opinions to yourself. I really think that’s the hardest part.
Kelly: Stepping into their worlds and stepping into what they’re thinking and not getting angry with them.
Joel: You have to put yourself aside. Without that you can’t know what they need.
Deborah: It’s hard letting go. After you get in the groove with
someone, it’s really hard at the end. I was really close to one of my clients and I miss her.
Kelly: I get so sad when I think it’s not going to be forever.
DHCP: The average age of our caregivers is 48. You’re all older than that. Do you think your age is an advantage?
Kelly: Definitely. I’m much more confident now than I was when I was in my 20s.
Deborah: I can relate better to their wants and needs. I can grasp what they’re yearning for when they can’t communicate it clearly.
Joel: It’s most certainly an advantage. You just gain a broader perspective on life in general as you get older.
DHCP: What do you love most about working with the elderly?
Kelly: I learn so much from them. They’ve been so many places and know so many things.
Deborah: I agree. You take a little bit of something from every client. It makes me more well-rounded.
Joel: Pace. I move slower. It helps me look outside of myself and into their world. Slowing down helps me to see all around me and gives me a better sense of well-being.
DHCP: Dignity’s tag line is “Where kindness matters.” How important is this to you in the way you care for your clients?
Kelly: Kindness matters. It should just be natural, but it’s not. You have to learn to control yourself. I pray someday someone will be kind to me when I need it. I want someone singing to me when I’m doing my pedaling!
Joel: Efficiency is often more important to other companies I’ve worked for. Will and power were more important than love. It simply takes more time to be kind.
DHCP: Is it worth it?
Dignity Home Care Professionals provides non-medical care for adults in their homes and in facilities where companionship can really make a difference. Call us at 412.415.3168 to find out how we can help create a solution for whatever challenge you or your loved ones are facing.