Care from the Kindness of Strangers – Part Two
May 04, 2006
Part One | Part Two
By: Jean Johnson for Body1
Lottie Reisenberger continues her story about caregiving outside the apartment of one her clients. “Since we are using assumed names for your story, I can talk a little about what my work is like, even though my teacher talked a lot to us about confidentiality.” Reisenberger arches her brows up under her bangs and smiles tentatively. Her 40-something face is youthful, and her middleclass upbringing shows in her demeanor.
| Ask Yourself Questions When Choosing a Caregiver|
Does the caregiver take a genuine interest in the dependent individual?
Is the caregiver reliable and prompt?
If the caregiver’s work needs improving, is she or he willing to take direction?
How does the caregiver use their time at work? Is their work ethic one that will meet expectations over the longer term?
“My lady that I take care of here – I mean like a year ago she would have never accepted care from somebody,” said Reisenberger. “Even now since she’s gotten accustomed to it, I think she would rather be able to take care of herself. But she can still stand, not walk but stand, which makes things easier for her and me.
“She wears a pad in her underwear, and I used to let her put that in at the beginning of the day. It’s better for people’s self-esteem. Just having respect for people – that’s what I try to do,” Reisenberger said. “But lately she’s waited for me do to more things like pushing her wheelchair more, and I go along even though she does need the exercise. As long as I’m there why not make life a little easier? She’s going to be doing the bathroom all by herself all day, and the route from where she sits has three curves that she has to maneuver in her wheelchair. Even if you’re young, it’d still be a pain in the neck.”
We head off to Reisenberger’s next client, where instead of personal care, she provides housekeeping services. “You can do personal care without a license, but until I complete my training and pass the tests and become a certified nursing assistant, more of my work though the agency has been helping people keep their homes clean.”
“It’s been kind of good for me to see that some people are cleaner than others. For instance, the other day I was getting ready to wipe my hands off. The lady I was working for said ‘no, that’s the dish towel, not the hand towel,’” Reisenberger said. “I didn’t know, so I’ve just learned stuff about housekeeping that I never learned at home, and I’m glad. I’m not an especially good housekeeper in my own home, but I do have an ethic that I owe it to my clients to do a really good job.
“One lady in particular, she takes really good care of things. She has family heirlooms – not fancy, but old lace and handkerchiefs that she presses under glass. She always makes me dry her clothes on the medium setting so they won’t wrinkle – I never learned that stuff before,” said Reisenberger with a chuckle. “And I have to go and make sure I get the clothes out exactly after 15 minutes and let them finish drying in the shower. She’s very particular, but very nice to me. She just takes really good care of things.”
Reisenberger talks about what she learns from all her experiences with clients even if some of them are less tidy than others. “I have one guy – he’s only 45 but has brain damage from a car accident. It’s been really good working with him because we had a point where you know I thought we were doing pretty well with keeping his apartment clean,” she said. “But some people from the county came to install windows, and they said things weren’t clean enough. So I said, ‘it looks clean to me, but why would they be saying that?’ So I had to go around and take a second look at things and make some improvements. I’m a pack rat myself, but there were some things he needed to throw away, and if I hadn’t had pressure from these people that were kind of insistent, we would have never got to cleaning things out.”
“One thing I liked about my nurses assistant teacher was she addressed all that stuff around emotions and depression,” Reisenberger said. “Like I have to remember to smile. Make it a point, because I get so caught up. Someone told me there’s an energy exchange going on between you and the person, so smiling helps a lot.”
Reisenberger explains that male clients can especially worry her, although she’s learning that she can do much to ease tension.
“I can get too serious in the work. One of my male clients, you know – I thought he didn’t like me, and I was all worried when I first started working for him. He was quiet and businesslike, so I just thought it meant he didn’t like me.”
Eventually the subject came up, and Reisenberger remembers one thing in particular that the older gentlemen told her. “He said ‘One thing I learned really early in life is that you can’t control who likes you and who doesn’t,’” she said. “And with him and me it turned out that we do get along pretty well. It was just that it took us a while to get used to each other.”
Reisenberger is nearing the apartment complex of her next client and has to leave, but she does make a last observation on attitudes that she’s found go a long way toward helping make for good interaction. “One thing they said in school that was pretty important was to not tell people how they should feel,” Reisenberger said, her voice dropping down to a soft register. “So I just listen to people and try to be sympathetic. Validating people’s feelings is important.”
Last updated: 04-May-06