2021 CAREGiver of the Year - Tanya K.
The story of a special relationship between Tanya and her client starts with a special relationship with a particular place and a particular couple in a rural small town with deep connections to the land; a farming community for generations. The relationship is special because Evan and Mary were Tanya’s first and only clients since she began serving them in 2015. The other aspect of the relationship that makes Tanya’s service unique is that this couple are the parents of franchise owner, Karen, who lives 4 hrs away.
Tanya quickly earned the trust of Evan and Mary. She and Evan, a retired farmer, hit it off from the start. He respected her confidence with practical skills and trusted her to care for him; he liked her driving. She regularly drove him to appointments, errands and outings. There were drives to look at crops, chase storms and enjoy the land. Even so, there were times he would “fire” her and then “re-hire” her…often on the same day! In addition to helping Evan keep up familiar routines like going to church, the hardware store and 10:00am coffee row, Tanya connected with him respectfully as his cognitive ability declined, helping to manage his behaviours and personal needs which eventually involved end of life care.
This meant a lot to Mary, who was able to rest when Tanya was with Evan. Mary was an RN and worked as a Home Care Nurse prior to retiring. She appreciated Tanya’s thorough way of completing tasks and enjoyed her ability to join in Mary’s dry sense of humor when that seemed to be the best way through a situation. Through the years Tanya became a pillar of support for Mary as their relationship deepened. Mary often tells others that Tanya is like her fourth daughter and Mary’s children appreciate her role.
After Evan’s passing in 2017, Mary requested that Tanya continue supporting her in her new life as a widow. Tanya became an integral part of Mary’s daily routines and enabled Mary to do the things that are most meaningful to her: driving her to many appointments, fully undertaking her vegetable garden annually, canning, baking and hosting friends for coffee, shopping, preparing meals, mending and challenging Mary in scrabble.
Tanya has always been a leader but this past year she demonstrated her role anew by ensuring Mary’s safe care during the early weeks of the pandemic lockdown. When family stayed away from March 23 to May 15, Tanya became Mary’s person, five days a week, four hours per day. Tanya set aside her own health concerns to take on Mary’s needs, focusing on not only staying safe physically but mentally and emotionally as well. During isolation in Mary’s house, Tanya ensured Mary’s spirits were kept up through playing games, puzzles, scrapbooks, history writing, learning to ZOOM and extra long walks. Mary continued to thrive at home.
Tanya shared her experience through a note on that last day of isolation: “Today, Mary and I were reflecting on the last 8 weeks. We both had some tears! Mary stated that it was so nice to have someone come in, it gives her something to look forward to. We are both so grateful for having each other. Helping Mary has been so good for me, it has given me a purpose to get up and get going. We have shared so many laughs, a couple of tears, a lot of reflection but most of all our bond has become so much greater. We have had a great 8 weeks, despite what is going on!!”
Mary’s daughter, Diane, shared what Tanya’s leadership means to her:
“Tanya has been the extra “family” member that we have needed to turn Mom’s wish to live the way she wanted to in her senior years into a reality. During the lockdown of Covid, Tanya was Mom’s tiny ‘bubble’ of companionship for many weeks. The reality was that because of our family’s busy lives, work and children we needed to protect Mom from the virus that we could have passed on to her. When we asked her, Tanya decided that she could ‘be Mom’s person’. What a tremendous relief for me to know that Mom would be taken care of.
For years, Tanya has filled a space in our family that allows us to simply enjoy our visits with Mom. Tanya takes care of all the things that we would need to assist her with if we could see her more regularly. From cook to driver, companion, gardener and hairdresser, Tanya has tackled things I would never attempt!
Mom has commented that after spending so much time together they know what the other one is thinking of saying before they say it!
Tanya has evolved, from being a caregiver, into a trusted friend for Mom. We joke with her about the fact that she is Mom’s favourite daughter. But truly she has been a blessing for us all.”
Tanya is a caregiver through and through so when something comes up, from the mundane to the critical, her consistent response is, ‘How can I help?’ She pays attention. She is sensitive. She is motivated by a deep desire to support her client and the family.
Over the past few years, Mary’s declining health conditions have required that Tanya be available to drive her to labs, medical appointments, and various treatments and procedures, locally and many miles away. Tanya offered to stay overnight with Mary at her son’s home, to watch over her following her angiogram.
2020 was an extraordinary year in many ways including Mary’s need to be escorted to medical scans and biopsies on her thyroid, pancreas, bowels, liver, lungs and heart, to name a few. The family is grateful for the medical interventions but without Tanya these explorations would have been inaccessible, with Mary’s family living so far away. Many of these 6-8 hour round trips took place during harsh winter driving conditions. Tanya is not phased about the driving or the constant rollercoaster of Mary’s testing, waiting for results and more testing. She shows up each day ready to support Mary through the next step, placing a top priority on helping Mary seek her best quality of life.
After all the testing Mary was eligible for both heart and lung surgeries. It had been an agonizing year of feeling very poorly, worrying, waiting for results and surviving the COVID restrictions. When Mary found out that her surgery was in five days, she and Tanya called with the news and to say that Tanya was available to help during Mary’s hospitalization.
Tanya said, “Whatever is needed, I will help. I will make every effort to make myself available for what Mary needs. I just want this to happen so she can feel better.”
When Mary was told to ‘lay low’ and stay healthy until the surgery, Tanya added, ‘I will also lay low, very low, to make sure nothing is compromised for Mary.’
Both the heart and lung surgeries were successful. Throughout it all, knowing that Tanya was willing to serve above and beyond her regular commitment gave Mary and her whole family peace of mind.
Tanya’s all-encompassing commitment to Mary’s care set her apart as our exceptional CAREGiver. Tanya has shown her best self through her competence, commitment and reliability. She has earned Mary's trust and the trust of Mary’s family, to be with her in place of family.
There is another important contribution which gives the family great peace of mind: Tanya’s work allows Karen to continue operating her Home Instead franchise. Without Tanya’s capable help over the past five years, she would have faced serious challenges and obstacles to meet her Mother’s goal of living in her small town. Tanya’s service to Mary freed up Karen to focus on supporting her franchise team to serve seniors in Saskatoon. Her relationship with her Mom has not been crowded by daily care activities and concerns. Instead she routinely enjoys unpressured moments with her Mom. Seeing her fulfilling her aging wishes is a cherished gift for her and her siblings.
Sophia, one of Mary’s granddaughters (Karen and Greg’s daughter), shared, ‘On more than one occasion Grandma has expressed to me, with tears in her eyes, just how thankful she is for Tanya in her life. She regularly gets emotional speaking about their bond and friendship, often calling Tanya her fourth daughter. Grandma has said what a comfort it is that they have shared memories of my late grandfather and can discuss his last years together. Tanya’s presence in Mary’s home has been one of gentle care, compassionate companionship and constant, constant, laughter.’
One year after Karen’s father passed, Mary announced to our family that she had come to a decision. She wanted to stay in her home, in her town and she felt she should increase her care visits to ensure her goal would be reached successfully. Aging successfully for Mary meant living her life to the fullest with the right amount of help. She placed confidence in her caregivers.
As Mary says, “Tanya knows everyone and everything! She takes me to doctor’s appointments and is a second set of ears as my hearing isn’t so good. This is very helpful to me.” Mary saves the more difficult tasks for the days that Tanya will be coming to see her. Mary expressed that this makes her life easier too… and this way “everything gets done.”
Tanya has taken Mary to funerals so she could pay her respects, which was important to Mary. Together they keep up Mary’s garden, which grounds Mary in her deep farming history. Tanya can cook!, she keep’s Mary’s vehicle washed, fueled and maintained and she installs needed equipment to make life a bit easier for Mary in her home. For a woman like Mary whose goal is to remain in her home with help, having a jack of all trades CAREGiver, like Tanya, has been a key to Mary’s successful aging!
Mary’s health crisis during pandemic isolation has been difficult to cope with but Tanya’s regular visits helped to ease Mary’s distress and prevented unnecessary decline. Tanya has fostered a close relationship that allows Mary to forge her independence and remain safely in her own home.