Originally from Alabama, and now residing in Olathe, KS, Christy is a professional caregiver for Private Home Care. Her path to caregiving started by taking care of her mom and dad for 9 years on her own, after her father was diagnosed with “Sundowners” Dementia, which progressed into Alzheimer’s. She was previously an Ophthalmic Nurse before moving in full time with her parents to care for them. She’s been a professional caregiver with PHC for over a year now.
We got the chance to interview Christy recently to learn more about her caregiving wisdom, and what drives her to excel at her job.
1. How did you get into caregiving?
“One day something just changed in dad. Mom said he’s been doing that for a while, and like many people didn’t want to alarm us, so she hadn’t said anything. Dad was diagnosed with Sundowners, which is early-onset Alzheimers. It got progressively worse from there. I just knew Mom couldn’t take of him by herself. 3 weeks after, I moved in full time. Eventually, Dad passed on a Christmas Day, surrounded by his family and thankfully very lucid at that moment, which was a real gift when dealing with Alzheimer’s. Like a lot of couples who have been married a long time, after Dad passed, Mom wasn’t really the same. She suffered from heart issues but thankfully did not suffer from any dementia. However, she only made it to the following Thanksgiving.
After that, I moved to Denver for a year, but being used to a slower pace, and fewer people, found Denver to be too crowded. I decided Kansas was a little more suited to me and decided to move to Olathe, where I had family. At that point, I had to decide what I was going to do for a living. I did have one interview with an eye surgeon, and considered going back to nursing, but quickly realized it wasn’t for me anymore. The pressure to move patients in and out to maximize profits wasn’t why I got into it in the first place, and after the experience with my parents, I realized I needed to choose a path that would make me happy, and more importantly fulfilled. So when I really got down to what that might look like, I realized that what kept me going the past 9 years was taking care of mom and dad. And I knew there were other people in the same position. I thought if I could help them, then that’s what will make me happy. And because I went through it myself, I could offer perspective and empathy beyond just caring.
2. Why do you love caring for families?
Because I went through it myself, I feel I can make it easier. Just having someone takes a big weight off people. I took the weight of my Mom. Now I take the weight off other people’s spouses and parents. It’s amazing how even the littlest things like being able to read a book in peace for a few hours, or taking a few extra minutes in the bath because you can’t leave them alone for too long can make a world of difference. It’s not always the big things. It’s being able to give families some time to themselves and support. Even if I’m down or depressed, there’s always a family relying on me to take care of them. And that gives me purpose.
3. Can you tell me about a family you’ve worked with that has really affected your life? What made them so great?
The family I’m taking care of now is originally from the South, like I am. And they feel more like family at this point, than a client. The gentleman I take care of now has Parkinson’s, which has been a learning experience. Different from Alzheimer’s but no less challenging. One thing that stands out is how much they give back to the community. He’s a former respiratory therapist, and they give like no one I’ve ever seen. It’s really inspiring. So, I don’t mind doing whatever needs to be done for them. They give me a reason to get up every day – along with my grand-daughter, who is the light of my life!
4. What do you love about working for Private Home Care?
Funny story. I wasn’t even sure anyone would hire me since I didn’t have any professional experience. But, ironically, as I was walking out of another interview that resulted in a job offer on the spot, Mario from PHC called me. Literally, right as I got in my car. I hadn’t even shut the door and the phone rang. I told Mario, I just got a job offer from the other company, and Mario said, “Well I don’t think you need to work there, you need to come here. From what you said, we need you”. I said yes immediately. I don’t know what it was, but something about PHC felt right. I knew that’s where I was meant to go next. And, then I got matched with my current family, which has been such a blessing. It feels almost like divine providence. The people at PHC make the difference.
5. What advice would you give to families who either need help or even think they might need help?
The first thing I’ll say, having been through it myself, is this is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. It’s not easy coming to grips with situations like this. The second thing I would say is most people just aren’t equipped to handle all that comes with this. They just aren’t. There’s no shame in it. It’s not a failure to admit you don’t know what to do. You aren’t equipped. And that’s ok. We are. Reach out. We have the people and the resources. Even if you just need to talk to someone, we’re here. You don’t even have to be a client or potential client. We can help, and at a minimum, point you in the right direction. Bluntly, I would say drop your pride on this. It’s not a failure. There’s a team here. You need a team.
Private Home Care provides home health care tailored to our client’s unique needs, no matter their age or how long we are needed. Our Caregivers have the experience and knowledge to provide an array of care services, from short-term, post-surgical support to long-term companionship and care for aging adults. We are a leader in Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, and we have specialized care teams who provide compassionate end-of-life care and hospice support.