Being a caregiver is not just what we do; it’s who we are. As a caregiver I prided myself on being the best caregiver in the world. Patients loved me, and co-workers loved my hard work and dedication. When I was hired my employers made me feel that they really cared about me and the quality of my character. However, not long into the job I felt they not only overworked me, but showed me little to no appreciation. I didn’t feel any loyalty from my employers. I felt I was giving them my best, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t pay me what I was worth. In the end I felt like they didn’t care about the quality of care as much as they cared about the financial bottom line.
One day I was working a double shift at the nursing home where I felt underappreciated. I finally got a minute to eat my lunch. I was sitting at the nurse’s station about to take a bite of my sandwich when a patient call light went off. I answered promptly, “What is it you need Mr. ─?”
He replied, “I’m cold, do you think I could get an extra blanket?”
“Sure!” I said sharply as I hung up the phone. As I stormed to the linen closet I grumbled, “Why didn't he ask when I was down there?” I grabbed the blanket and slammed the door shut. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t blame a client for being overworked and exhausted; it was my fault. He was just cold and needed a blanket. My work environment was terrible and I was taking it out on a client. I was turning into one of those people who no longer did the job for the right reasons; I never wanted to be that person. I put my two weeks in the very next day. After years of hard work and dedication, the nursing home didn't try to retain me. I remember the social worker pleading with the director to get me to stay, “She is the kind of caregiver we need to fight for.” No offer was made. They didn’t care about caregivers, and they didn’t care about the quality care we were giving to clients, and if they don’t care about quality of care they definitely don’t care about the clients.
Next I worked at a home health care agency; I was done with nursing homes. I loved the independence. I could make my own schedule and see clients in their homes. I really got to know my clients and spent time with them. There were no call lights, calls, new admissions, or other nursing center duties to rush me through care. I was happy, and I felt the agency really cared about me and appreciated my work. I made relationships that changed my way of thinking and allowed me to build confidence in my skills. I worked as many hours as available. I never turned a client away. If the company needed me, I was there. I worked on holidays. I traveled great distances. I was committed to providing world-class care and being the best in my field.
Then the recession hit, and I got a reality check. The agency cut my pay by more than half and asked me to expand my already stretched-to-the-limits service area. They wanted me to see more people in less time. If I didn’t agree to the new terms of service, they’d take my benefits away. For seven years I had given this company my all. Never had a client complained about my care. I always did what was asked of me. I sacrificed time with my family to provide quality care to their clients. They made me feel disposable, but I refused to be bullied so I told them to take my benefits. However, my small empowering moment was immediately followed by a looming, “What do I do now?”
Throughout my journey I had been independently taking care of Oliver. We always talked about my ideas for better client care; it was a solution for clients and caregivers. He encouraged me to create my own change in the industry. I told him it was crazy. I had no business education or experience. He looked around the room and said, “I don’t see anyone better than you.” He planted a seed, a seed that I nourished slowly. I planned and dreamed and then I took a first step. Eventually, I succeeded.
I’ve learned that I get better with each failure. I hate falling down but getting up makes me stronger. Oliver believed in me before I believed in myself. Now I want to pass his legacy on to caregivers and clients. I am creating a positive work environment where both caregivers and clients thrive. Oliver died at the bright age of 90. The last thing he said to me was, “You are amazing.” It has become my mantra.
Two months after Oliver’s death, I opened My Little Oliver’s Helping Hands in dedication to a man who saw something amazing in me. I've created an image where we are amazing. Our motto is people over profit. Our goal is to create an environment that provides peace of mind for both our caregivers and our clients. We are a business of people for people and our number one profit is the satisfaction of a job done well. We see the potential in every person and we nurture its growth. Oliver’s legacy lives on in our care.
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