As an unemployed 22-year-old, I felt stuck. As a full-time student, I needed to find a full-time job to support myself. I decided to go to a home care agency to look for employment for two reasons. First, I love to help people and second I knew it would be convenient for my school schedule. The training started in May and only lasted a month. It was perfect timing because the school semester was ending and I knew that I would be able to attend the training. The training was the easiest thing on earth. Within a week of finishing the program, I was sent to someone’s home. The clients that I helped suffered from mental illnesses, health problems, and physical disabilities. I cared for people with conditions including diabetes, strokes, cancer, high blood pressure, bi-polar disorder, alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis.
Walking into this job as a young home health aide was very difficult. I encountered many challenges but I never gave up. Because of mismanagement in the home care agency, I was sent home from cases because clients stated that they were unaware of my arrival. Since I was younger than what clients expected, I often felt judged. That is one of the most persistent challenges that I still face. Clients would say comments such as “you’re a baby, what are you doing here?” or “you’re so young, you don’t know what to do.” I always either ignored those comments or responded professionally. Clients also thought it was okay to try to take advantage of me. For instance, I had this one client who would send me back and forth to the store, it was so unreasonable. That’s only the beginning of it, her husband who I wasn’t responsible for developed this idea that he could tell me what to do. From experiences like these I learned to set boundaries, I told the both of them that I was only there to help the person I was assigned to assist.
On another occasion, I was forced to stay on a case that I was uncomfortable with. During the hot summer, I was ordered to go from supermarket to supermarket to pick up flyers. Yes, flyers, could you believe that? The client wanted to flyers, in order to choose what she needed from the supermarket. This one particular client was also very particular about what kind of crushed ice she wanted from Dunkin’ Donuts. In addition to all of this, I also worked in a unhealthy work environment, meaning that there was no air circulation during the heat wave. I called my agency multiple times and they would not allow me to leave the case. The only way I got removed from this case was by going into the agency. At last, I was replaced. Overall, the clients listed above were absolutely difficult to assist.
As of now, I am helping one of the most amazing clients on earth. He hardly ever gives me a difficult time. He is amazing because he is kindhearted, funny, and the best storyteller.
Besides the obstacles, I must say that being a professional caregiver is rewarding in really meaningful ways. Throughout the years, I have gained a lot of self-confidence. The confidence has come from setting boundaries and being assertive. I am also able to practice and enhance my articulation skills as I communicate frequently with health care professions and social workers. By far the most rewarding part of caregiving has been listening to my clients’ stories as I appreciate every moment of it. Listening to my clients’ stories is meaningful to me because I enjoy hearing their insights and stories about life before the onset their illnesses.
The author wishes to remain anonymous.