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2014 CAREGiver of the Year Wanda

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The person who is willing to be a CAREGiver for someone else has cultivated their gift of caring and tended their heart to be able to give over and over again.  After many years interviewing potential CAREGivers, when we meet a great candidate, we recognize when they have something special about them.  When a woman or man, who expresses interest in working with our senior clients, does indeed have what it takes to be successful, we hire them as quickly as possible.  When Wanda came to us after caring for both of her parents who had recently both passed and after a fulfilling career at the U of S, we knew immediately she was ‘the type’.

Wanda is the type - the ‘smart, straight up, willing to roll up her sleeves, get it done, no matter the person, place or task’ type.  We can send our CAREGiver of the year to absolutely anyone, from the oldest to the youngest seniors,  to those living on assistance to those highly educated and refined.  As a person who generously allows herself to get attached, Wanda recently shared what she would do for her dearest client, a woman who reminds her of her own Mom, “If I knew how to stand on my head I would stand on my head for that woman.”  While Wanda is utterly taken with this five foot tall little lady, weighing less than 95 pounds, at the same time she can wield immense influence in the lives of some towering men.  
Yes she exercises influence.  When we serve a senior they come to us with families.  It seems that Wanda has been CAREGiver to several clients whose family members were not only stressed but stepping out of line at times.  Wanda handles these moments with her velvet glove approach.  During her client’s anniversary party, when her client was tempted to get discouraged by the behaviour of his dysfunctional son and daughter as they drew attention to themselves she turned to her client and directed him, “John, this is your day.  Look at your wife.  Look how beautiful she looks.  Just go enjoy yourself.”  When John’s wife moved out of the house and into a long term care facility, he wanted to end service with Home Instead but Wanda corrected him, “John, you need this.”  It was the truth.  As Wanda’s client families act out it doesn’t affect Wanda.  She rolls with it, keeping her sense of humor, anchoring her client.  “When John’s interior decorator daughter changed his house around, Wanda took him aside to reassure him, “This is her way of helping, let her do it.  We’ll fix it later, John, after she leaves.” 

Wanda sees the best in people and does not take it personally when they are at their worst.  If she knows they are capable of something she finds ways to help them succeed. She never gives up;  she finds endless ways to try for improvement and advocates on behalf of clients and families who need a voice. 

What is the secret to her success?  You will have to ask her, but we will propose our best guess: 

It is humility that is at the center of this CAREGiver's success.  When Wanda is your CAREGiver ‘it is all about you’.  Clients living with dementia are put at ease as she presents herself as an equal, exuding genuine kindness.  Wanda’s way of humility encompasses both gentleness and strength as she cares for her clients.  At the foundation her humility seems to come not only from her honest assessment of herself in the world, but a mature acceptance of all that comes to her and a security in her own ability to manage what life brings.

This strength and security roots Wanda’s generosity.   From carpentry projects which solve client’s problems to ancestry research that turn a client’s life journal into a masterpiece, Wanda isn’t afraid to put herself in the centre of solving problems and meeting needs.  Wanda freely offers wisdom, sensitivity and skills hard won through her own hardships and life experiences.  

This fall Wanda lost her brother, who tragically passed at a young age.  Wanda was tasked with managing his affairs.  During that time, we witnessed as Wanda painstakingly followed his wishes to the letter.  Difficult decisions were made and sacrificial time was spent to ensure that she was fair to all involved and honored his memory.   Serving others is her strength.  In just over two years with Home Instead she has earned her 4000 hour pin.  Scheduling is simple where Wanda is concerned: ‘schedule me whenever clients need me, as long as I get a couple days off.’

Jean Vanier is a philosopher and founder of communities for people with disabilities and those who assist them.  His writing brings thoughtful focus to the our work with vulnerable seniors.  Writing on what it takes to truly be compassionate and present to those who are fragile, Vanier says: 

Each one of us finds it enormously difficult to accept him or herself as we are, with that extraordinary mixture of weakness and strength, ignorance and wisdom, light and darkness, love and hate. In fact, we flee from something that I'd call our vulnerability, our immense fragility.

We often try to flee from our sufferings, we don't want to look at them squarely. Each one of us tries to run away from his weaknesses, his ignorance. We live in a world where everyone wants to appear to be like this or that: to seem strong, intelligent, powerful, up and coming...

We have to accept… the human condition… Hope stems from the acceptance of reality, as it is.

Vanier’s words help us see the immense power concealed in the care we provide our seniors.  ‘Tenderness is deeply respectful of the other, not possessing in any way, but giving the other security’.  Tenderness and humility describe Wanda's deep respect for others.  Her generosity of spirit is not possessive in any way but gives her seniors and their family’s security when in her capable care. 

For this beautiful and outstanding way of caring for our senior clients we commend our CAREGiver, Wanda Warren.

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