Linda K.
Grand Prize Winner
Kathy’s Story

For several years, I have helped as my husband fights the incurable disease of Parkinson's. The last three years, I have been a caregiver to him with visits and work of several hours every day. It has been quite a rewarding education in caregiving and life.  His doctor has expressed surprise that my husband is doing as well as he is. Not surprising to us:  it is the effect of our great love for each other.

Although caregiving can be exhausting, it has many facets and opportunities that make it rewarding. Where love abides, that love becomes cherished and gives a reason to live. In the case of Parkinson's, it can be an opportunity to deepen that love and really give time to one another with soul to soul communication, which normal hustle and bustle of everyday living usually excludes. When the patient can no longer read, good books can be read to him, discussed, and enjoyed by the reader and the listener. Bible study together can strengthen each person's faith. It is an opportunity to really know and appreciate each other. Interaction with people extends the cognitive abilities. People need people. As my mother would say, "It is an ill wind that blows no good." Even in the worst possible scenario, something positive can be found. No matter what the profession, entering it with the attitude, "How can I make this world a better place?" gives incentive and reward. The seemingly smallest thing may ultimately be the greatest. Laughter can be the best medicine of all. When one enters the room with a big smile, the patient feels, "Hey, this person cares! This person likes me!"

Too often, budget constraints render low pay for the aide. Understaffing and few perks increase low morale and frustration. These discourage the aide's job from becoming a career.  A high turnover results and staffing stability is lost, while the employee seeks to improve his position or find better conditions elsewhere. When the employer is blind to the reasons for turnover, turnover continues. Inadequate training before being "thrown to the wolves" is unfair to the employee and to the patient. Utmost recognition of these caregivers as humans with human needs is essential to instill a sense of purpose and reinforce that there is ultimate reward in their caring. Loyalty of an employee in any endeavor is earned by loyalty of those above him. If the employees feel appreciated, the effort and quality of the care they give will be multiplied. Are there incentives offered to achieve this? Even with the best of intentions, overload of work can and does cause burnout. Adequate staffing and teamwork pay big rewards in the long run.

The perspective of the caregiver is essential; if it is only to draw a paycheck or done under duress, it will not be a happy job. This will be obvious to the patient and others with whom the caregiver interacts. Where job satisfaction is possible, and where the employee feels he and his work are noted and appreciated, he has achieved success – and reward.

Essentially, the successful caregiving requires the caregiver and facility to step “into that moccasin that the patient wears.” If you were in that bed and you were thirsty or wanted to make a call, is the bedside tray by the bed? Is the phone where it can be reached? Are the covers loose over the toes so as not to press down and hurt?” Giving a sense of worth for every day the patient lives is rewarding to all involved. An old song back in the '40s, 'Enchanted Boy," stated: "The greatest thing you'll ever find is just to love and be loved in return." Whether a caregiver or patient, respect the individual as a human being not just as an object. And develop patience - patience to understand. It is rewarding to know that one person can make a great difference. The rewards are immense.

We received many outstanding and heartfelt stories in this year’s Caregiver Story Contest. With just 9 winners chosen out of more than 260 inspirational submissions, Shield HealthCare is recognizing 20 of our finalists in our 5th Annual Readers’ Choice Contest. After reading each caregiver’s story, choose your favorite and place your vote! Only one vote per person will be accepted.

Is your story featured? Share this page with your friends and family and encourage them to vote as well!

The Top 3 Readers’ Choice Contest Winners with the Most Votes will Receive:
  • $150 American Express gift card
Contest runs from Feb. 1 – Feb. 29, 2016.

This year's Caregiver Story Contest and Readers’ Choice Contest are over, but sign up for our newsletter for announcements for next year's contest.

ALL contest entrants will receive an "I Care" heart lapel pin!