CAREGiver of the Year - Michelle

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CAREGiver of the Year is a Precious Gem

Michelle immigrated to Canada 11 years ago from Somerset, England on a provincial nominee program with her husband and 3 children.  The initial application for permanent residency was denied but finally granted through persistence over time.  Settled in a new country with no friends or family, she was devastated when her marriage came to an abrupt end.  Infidelity, physical and mental abuse; coupled with death threats by a son out of control – her life was now in a downhill spiral. Left alone, a single mom, Michelle faced recurrent loss - her home and vehicle, as well as relinquishing her son to Casa House, a crisis home for children of imminent physical danger to themselves or others. Along with his mental challenges, her son also struggled with Autism, ADHD, ASD, and Anxiety Disorder.

Overwhelmed and exhausted, constant financial hardship and the food bank was a way of life as she struggled to provide for herself and her children. Mounting credit card debt became a means of survival.  In the midst of her emotional distress, Michelle faced relentless health concerns requiring hospitalization on several occasions … then unexpectedly the grave report by doctors came stating that tumors in her breast were cause for a partial mastectomy. 

Although bearing the constant burden of being the sole repairer of a broken family, Michelle believed deep inside that she was created for more than struggle.  With tenacity and fortitude, she persevered to find her true calling in life.  Searching opportunities on the internet … she found HOME INSTEAD.  Her passion to care for others in significant ways, has brought her to the "top of the class", and she has become a loyal lead caregiver – by building trust, taking the lead, and sharing her heart.

"There are lots of clients which have touched my heart, but there is one little lady named Mary Ann that comes to mind." She was the sweetest  … very petite but had the longest curly eyelashes I had ever seen. She looked mischievous and had a keen sense of humor.  She was a country girl like myself and loved tasty home cooked meals; a lady who in earlier days loved to entertain.  Always polite, she would say to me "if you need anything just let me know.

I spent the night shifts with her, and as our journey together progressed we placed a baby monitor in the bedroom and the living room so I could hear her every move.  As she became more frail I felt it would be easier for me to just lay on top of the bed beside her. One night she woke up saying "hello? hello?".   I responded saying, "it's okay Mary Ann, I'm right here -  I have been here right by your side all night".   Mary Ann replied, "well that's good as neither of us were alone" and a smile came across her face.

Transferring her was a slow process. I would get her to hold on to me as if we were going dancing, and have her put her toes on my feet.  We would take tiny steps and I'd guide her feet to where they needed to go.  I was able to do this as she was less than a 100lbs.  Her joints would pop and crack as she moved her body with me but she would still be smiling as though it were a waltz.

Then came the transfer day from home to hospice.  Her daughter requested that I be there for the transition and although it was my day off, she was my priority.  I arrived at 6:30 a.m. and made sure she had a nourishing breakfast, then dressed her in preparation for the ambulance to arrive.  Her daughter asked if I could get her up like I had been doing with our "dance move" to situate her on her walker.  When the ambulance personnel arrived I said, "well, you're the lucky one today Mary Ann, as you have two men in uniform that are gonna ride with you".   Her eyes lit up and a smile came across her face as she said" wahoo!!"  With a burst of laughter, her daughter was able to hold back the tears instead of breaking down.  I gathered Mary Ann's things, and followed her through the door, never to return home again. Her daughter was so grateful, giving me a big hug.  "Thank you, it made it a lot easier for her and for myself to have you here on a very difficult day".

Mary Ann was in hospice for another 3 weeks before she passed away, Invited to the funeral and connecting with the family after the ceremony, her daughter held me tight as she broke down, saying that the care we provided her mum was by far better than what she received at the hospice, and us being there for her in an intimate way meant they could spend quality time with their mum. The daughter's husband gave me a hug and whispered in my ear that while Mary Ann was in the hospice, his wife had also used the infamous "dance technique" I used to easily move her when she was so weak and fragile.   

"The impact we make on families in addition to caring for their loved one is amazing.  The miracle of changing lives is priceless, and the memories will last a life time."


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