Guest Blog: A Message to Caregivers: Be Proud

Flora Alexandra Brewer

March 11, 2015

On December 2, 2014, CTD attended Amerigroup’s annual Caregiver Appreciation Luncheon. The keynote speaker, Flora Alexandra Brewer (below), delivered a powerful message about the real work and worth of community attendants. In light of the recent developments in the legislature concerning attendant wages, we are pleased share some excerpts of her talk below. Edited and posted with permission.

In a room with balloons and a decorated Christmas tree, a woman addressing a seated audience holds a microphone to speak while gesturing with her hand.

I managed an organization of caregivers for four years, and I found myself continuously in awe of the work they did and the clients they supported. After much thought, I decided that I have one message for you: Be Proud.

The caregivers I worked with showed me every day that their work is complex and demanding. I could tell stories all day about the caregivers who accomplished things that only they could do (because they were in the home every day) with patience and vigilance to help bring their clients to a higher level of ability and quality of life. I’ll tell you a few stories that I’m sure you will recognize, because they happen all the time.

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One of our clients had been in the hospital and was being released to his home alone on a Friday. His caregiver was not scheduled to see him until Monday. She called him on Saturday to see how he was doing, and when he didn’t answer, she went to his house. When he didn’t answer the door, she called the police. When they got into the house, they found he had fallen and was unable to move. They got him to the hospital in time to save his life.

Oh and by the way, she stayed to clean his chair and the floor where he had been lying for over 24 hours before she locked up his house to go back to her own family.

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Another caregiver we hired and assigned to “one of those houses” – with decades of magazines and newspapers piled everywhere, with towers of boxes threatening to fall over. We’d had reports of fleas and requests to provide shoe covers from previous caregivers. When we sent in a new caregiver, she looked past the conditions and saw our client as a kindred spirit – somebody who couldn’t part with anything. She started gently asking if she might clear away one pile of stuff so she could clean a mirror in the bedroom. They got rid of the first pile and the second… then they moved on to the couch and the coffee table and the dinette. It took a long time, and some fumigation, but the client got her house back. The trusted daily support made it happen.

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Still another client is an award-winning journalist and teacher who has relied on personal care attendants all his life. His mother, now in her nineties, was his first caregiver. As she aged, he got more help. He found his current caregiver living next door. She and her sons have enabled both the client and his mother to stay independent at home, saving him $5000 a month in nursing home costs.

And his caregiver has gone on to get advanced education in nursing and physical therapy.

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A woman holds a sign that reads Attendants the heart of Home Care So be proud of the work you do, because you are professionals. Your work requires knowledge, skills, intelligence, emotional stability, and infinite patience. You save everyone countless dollars by keeping your clients healthy at home and out of institutions.

But what you mean to people’s lives and families is completely uncountable – by protecting their health, by encouraging their spirits, by being as reliable as sunrise, by giving them the chance to live as independently and actively as possible.

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