Before she applied to work with Home Instead Grace had
raised a family and been a family Caregiver to her own aging family
members. She had worked in the beauty industry at the Hair Style Inn,
which is now owned by her son. However, the work experience that
particularly jumped off the page to clinch our Caregiver job offer was
the role of Manager at McDonalds Restaurant. It was not just any
McDonalds but the McDonalds on 22nd Street in Saskatoon. We decided, if
this woman can manage a staff team to handle the comings and goings in
that public place she can do it all! And that is what we are
Grace has served countless clients and provided a total of 6830 hours of service for our senior clients. Grace we thank you for your tireless attention to your client's needs, wants and concerns. You are generous with your heart, giving of yourself over and over again. You have seen many client's to the end of their lives. And each time we introduce you to someone new you are ready to open your heart again. This is a generosity that sets you apart.
We recall Grace's way with one client in particular which exemplifies her finest caregiving skills and Grace's own statement that "One day at a time…our lives are given a meaning". Edna was living with dementia and had just moved into a downtown retirement community. There were a few problems with the new living arrangement. First, Edna had dementia but was not aware she had dementia. Second, she really missed her old condo which was only a few blocks away and she would regularly wander away from her new home in search of her old one. Her nephew had taken this risk for the benefit of allowing his aunt to walk on familiar streets where she had lived and worked (at the Police Station) for many years.
For Edna the walls and doors were basically semi-permeable for her - she came and went from her home all day long. Honestly this was not a care plan we were prepared to put on paper. So instead, we decided to choose a Caregiver who could keep up with Edna, earn her trust, figure out some patterns and help us create a care plan to involve other Caregivers. This is where Grace entered into the story: she first met Edna in her new retirement community in February 2013 and was charged with keeping up with Edna for a portion of the morning and over lunch hour during her downtown wanderings. Grace would arrive at Edna's home and if she wasn't there she would go looking – there were a few typical spots to check: Grandma Lee's, McDonalds (which is now gone) and the library. Grace found her every time and then doggedly pursued Edna like a police officer tailing a suspect. Even when Edna would stop, turn around and demand that she stop following her Grace managed to keep peace and carry on. Edna would often use rather colourful language to express to Grace that her presence was not welcome nor required. But that didn't stop Grace… she followed and in fairly short order Grace had earned a true friendship with Edna. They were very close and it was a beautiful caring relationship that lasted for years. With Grace leading the way, our progress with Edna was much appreciated by her nephew, Blair – through Home Instead Senior Care he learned how to work with and around the vascular dementia that changed his aunt.
The third problem with the living arrangement was that Edna basically did not like any of the other residents. The word "curmudgeon" is usually applied to grumpy old men, however, in her unique way, Edna's hilariously blunt and ruthlessly true one liners earn her the title. One evening when Grace accompanied Edna to the dinner table, which was occupied by two other table mates, Edna took one look at the two ladies and turned to Grace, asking her in Ukrainian, "Do I have to speak to these people?" Grace said, "yes!"
Grace was instrumental in helping Edna remain in that retirement community for nine months. As her dementia progressed, on at least one occasion, Grace noticed Edna's table mates making comments and laughing about Edna's expressions and behavior. Grace took it upon herself to provide correction to the women by leaning forward to reach the 'salt and pepper' (to block Edna's sight and hearing) and telling the ladies that they were out of line.
After a stint in hospital, Edna was eventually transferred to Parkridge. One of the realities of life for Edna was that while she was mobile initially, she eventually lost the ability to walk. Prior to the wheelchair becoming a permanent part of Edna's life, Grace would walk with her regularly and was, as time progressed, one of only two CAREGivers who were
comfortable walking with Edna. This extended Edna's quality of life and facility physiotherapists were impressed and grateful for the support. During the later days of Edna's life Grace was always looking for ways to engage and encourage Edna. Sometimes it was the simplest things that were the sweetest: showing pictures of beautiful places that Edna had visited in her travels around the world; talking about people Edna remembered from childhood and her Saskatchewan hometown and of course singing Jesus loves me at bedtime. That sweet caring friendship was a gift to Edna, who never married or had children and it is a friendship we won't forget. We are sure Grace won't forget this either. In fact, she wrote something at the end of a two page communication sent to our office while we were building the details of Edna's care plan, she signed off her e-mail saying this: "One day at a time…our lives are given a meaning. Grace W"
Grace's life has been given incredible meaning through her work as a Home Instead Senior Care CAREGiver, with Edna and so many others she has cared for. It is Grace's deep love of the inner person that endears her to her clients. 'Unlovable' is not in Grace's vocabulary – in fact, we have told her 'Grace, you are your name'. We truly have tested this theory by sending Grace to some very challenging situations to help us get things started. She has always found a way to earn trust and help the most challenging clients.
We congratulate Grace on being named Home Instead Senior Care Saskatoon's CAREGiver of the year for 2015! She is nominated for many reasons: her tender way of joining in the world of those with dementia which helps them maintain dignity; we also acknowledge her for carrying a great deal of service hours and for many years this included weekend service. We thank her for making those client's schedules work. And we thank her for her time and willingness to serve.
Grace is awarded this honor for her thoughtful and unique approaches to caring for seniors. We see in her an abandonment to the person and the moment – she see what is possible and keeps that focus as she finds ways to maintain her seniors' richest life. Grace works from her heart and this is apparent to all who observe her working with her clients. Her heart is on display as she shares her own passion for life and one day at a time finds meaning in her work.
GRACE WESOLOWSKI named CANADA's 2015 CAREGIVER OF THE YEAR !
Grace Wesolowski lives by the motto, "One day at a time our lives are given meaning." That motto is something she's been consistently reminded of during her nearly six-year career as a CAREGiver.
"A lot of times you just go through the motions. I think when you get to be in a situation as a lot of our clients are, you realize that every day, every minute, every second has meaning. And every interaction with someone has a meaning."
Grace has always made an effort to enjoy each day. Her first job out of school was as a hairdresser at a nursing facility. She loved her interactions with seniors and their gratitude for something as simple as a haircut. Grace then opened a family hairstyling business. After helping build the business, she moved to another town. Her son still owns and operates that business. Once she moved, she took a job as a manager at the McDonald's in a part of town that was notoriously riddled with crime. For six years, she worked at this McDonald's. She dealt with difficult situations on a regular basis, but it wasn't until the store was robbed at gunpoint that Grace's family said it was time for her to find another job.
Her neighbor mentioned that she worked at Home Instead as a CAREGiver and loved what she did.
"I was close to my grandparents and aunts and uncles as a child. I helped take care of them and so this seemed like something I would really enjoy and would be good at."
Grace's first client was Lillian. She approached her just like she did her relatives. She stepped into her world and treated her just like family. She continues to approach all of her clients like that. She always wants them to feel comfortable and safe. Grace tries to take every client experience and apply it to the next client. She builds off what she has learned.
Throughout her long career, she's had clients who are at many different stages in life. Grace has become exceptionally gifted with caring for clients who are nearing the end of their life. She has just the right touch to help comfort them.
"Interacting with people who are near the end of their life puts everything into perspective. Life is so meaningful and you should cherish every second of it. Working with seniors reminds me of that every day."
Grace focuses on making sure her clients are at peace and in as little pain as possible. She tries to soothe them and comfort them during the sometimes difficult aging process. Once the client has passed away, she always tried to attend the services because it is so meaningful to the family.
"Families are always very welcoming at the church services. It means a lot to them. They get emotional because you are almost an extension of their mother or father."
These moments just reinforce Grace's motto. She knows life is short and that it is important to cherish every moment.
"In the blink of an eye, it is over. I try to make every moment positive. This job allows me to do that. When I leave my house for work, I don't feel like I'm going to a job. I am spending time with a family member or an old friend."
Grace has really enjoyed her six years as a CAREGiver and was shocked and surprised when she was recognized as CANADA's CAREGiver of the Year.
"I think there are a lot of people out there who deserve this. It is a real honor. All CAREGivers do things that are hard to explain. Everyone goes above and beyond with their clients. It isn't a 9 to 5 job. I love when I'm with my clients; they've given me a whole new outlook on life."
Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.
Each Home Instead Senior Care franchise is independently owned and operated.