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Inspired By a Teacher with Dementia | A Professional Caregiver Shares her Story

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
03/24/14  6:02 PM PST
Joanne - Caregiver for Betsy

Caregiver Story Spotlight | 2013 Shield HealthCare “What Makes Caregiving Rewarding?” Story Contest

Story shared by Joanne H…

“I didn’t start out as a family caregiver or a home health professional. I was hired because I enjoy being with the elderly, love to cook, have lots of patience and am handy around the house. I started caring for a wonderful lady with dementia in a small town in the mountains.

I get to care for her four days a week and I could not ask for a more rewarding job. We go for walks together every day. We stop by the post office, the hardware store and her favorite place, the library where she checks out books about history. She loves being around motorcycles, classic cars, and dogs of every description. She is a very bright and intelligent woman, with a masters degree in education. She made her career as a history teacher and high school counselor.

I take her shopping and on errands in her small town. Everywhere we go, we run into people who will stop and say hello and tell her what a wonderful teacher and counselor she was and how the advice she gave them inspired them to further their education and made a positive difference in their lives. It is so rewarding to be around such a great lady.

Taking her for walks in the fall of the year, we pick different colors of leaves off the trees, and that makes her smile. I bring out pictures of old times with family and friends, which makes her smile and laugh. Giving her showers in the morning and spraying water in her face makes her giggle too, That’s rewarding!

She has had a few small strokes that has hindered her from communicating well. Now she wants me to read to her, and take her to the movies and shopping. She loves to go out to eat. I also love cooking for her and when I make something that she hasn’t had in a long time, she will clap her hands and tell me in that way, that she really liked it. That’s rewarding!

She likes to shake a persons hand even if she doesn’t know them. That makes her day rewarding. She has a brother that lives out of state, so we Skype with him so she can see his face and he can see her. She can communicate a little better face to face than on the phone. To get her to say I love you to her brother is rewarding for both of them.

We do flash cards that have words and pictures of places that she likes to go so she can point to one of them so I know where she wants to go that day. Often she is doing motions with her hands, tapping her mouth and brushing her nose. Understanding this is a challenge, but very rewarding when I found out that tapping her mouth means I am talking too fast!

I have been with her for nine months now and have taken on line classes for dementia to better help her. She has inspired me so much and I have learned a lot. Even with dementia she is still teaching others. I know that not only did I find a great friend, but a great lady that has also inspired so many others! And I hope I can spend many more days and years with her.”

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