Care from the Kindness of Strangers
April 21, 2006
By: Jean Johnson for Shoulder1
The truth is most of us will need the help of a caregiver at some point in our lives. While some of us will be fortunate enough to have that person be a family member, most will find themselves in the hands of those they do not know.
The thought of being dependent on a stranger precisely when you are the most vulnerable can be disconcerting if you dwell on it much. Nevertheless, we at Body1 think information can help dispel many qualms. So we went looking for a caregiver willing to share the story of how she got involved in the field, and what about the work keeps bringing her back.
| Tips for selecting a caregiver:|
Look for someone willing to listen to your particular needs and wishes.
If possible have a family member help screen potential caregivers.
It’s helpful to interview three individuals for the position before making a decision.
Look for caregivers with long track records of working for the same people.
Outside the apartment of her first morning client, Lottie Reisenberger opens the door to her 1988 Honda Civic and brushes the lint from her jeans before getting into the driver’s seat. A silver medallion hangs by a chain over her gray turtleneck, and she runs her hand through a short crop of light brown hair.
“I’ve been a cashier for much of my life and thought I’d like to do something different, so I applied for housekeeping work at this agency. It’s worked out well for me, and now I’m in training to do personal care as well,” said Reisenberger. “The training didn’t take very long, and the work is something that would kind of mesh well with being a student since I’m planning to go back to college, too.”
Attractions of the Older Generation
It all started back when Reisenberger worked in a hardware store in Cincinnati, Ohio. “That was two and half years ago, and about 70 percent of the customers were over the age of 65. I just noticed how much I enjoyed talking to those people,” she explained.
“They had really nice manners and tended to be more personable than the younger ones – the baby boomers and on down, you know – they tend to not put as much emphasis on being personable. I remember the manager at the store would mock the old people, and I just thought it was pretty sad. Also it always annoyed me when someone would say an old person was cute – sort of a put down if you see what I mean.
“First doing housekeeping and now getting into personal care has worked out well for me. When I was a cashier I used to be jittery. It made me nervous, and you couldn’t talk to people that long. So now I have more one on one,” Reisenberger said. “That’s what I really like about my job now. I just relate to one person for a longer period of time, and we can talk a little bit. So I enjoy that. Also I feel like I’m doing a service and helping people be independent, because you know sometimes that’s all people need is a little extra help with housework to stay independent so they don’t have to live in a nursing home.”
Reisenberger’s amber eyes shine as she describes interacting with the older generation. “All these older ladies have such great crochet and sewing and craft work. I’ve got one lady who has a 1970 patchwork shag carpet in all these bright colors, and a lot of these women do really neat craft work and have really cheery décor in their homes. It’s been enriching going in and seeing what their friends have given them. One lady – her husband was a painter and she has his paintings on the wall.”
Aesthetics aside, Reisenberger has also found interacting with elders instructive. “Another thing I’ve learned is how thrifty they are – more like my parents were. You wouldn’t catch them spending $12 on eating out or on something they didn’t really need. They make their own meals and enjoy being at home.”
“Then there’s this 94 year old woman that I go to visit with. That’s what my job is – to go and visit. That’s my only client where conversation is what I do – and then I run errands for her too or go and get groceries in case she doesn’t feel like it. But here she’s 94 and has all her marbles. I’m sort of in awe of people that have lived that long. She was a school teacher, and she’s just kind of got it together. She’s kind and makes interesting conversation. I admire her – just respect her.”
Continued in Part Two
Last updated: 21-Apr-06