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January 01, 2021

2020 CAREGiver of the Year

Written By: Home Instead of Saskatoon
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Kristina Anderson, Canada's CAREGiver of the Year!

Not only is Kristina the 2020 CAREGiver of the Year for Saskatoon, she also picked up the award as top CAREGiver for all of Canada. Anderson was recognized for her commitment and service to the older adults who are local clients of Home Instead, the world's largest provider of home care and companionship services for seniors.

The Saskatoon office chose Kristina to represent their team this year because of her wow factor. The outstanding quality of her work, strength of her character and the impact she has made in the lives of our clients and their families is a credit to her personality, dedication and skills as a CAREGiver.

One week after Kristina was hired she began seeing our new client, Betty Lou (name changed), and has continued to see her for the past 2.5 years.

Betty Lou, 98, lives in an assisted living home and has dementia. While she is hard of hearing, Betty Lou spry and mobile and had even been walking to the mall on her own at times!  She also walks the halls of her building, participates daily in shuffleboard and enjoys the meals in the dining room. The goal of the family was to have Betty Lou continue to live where she lived with a high quality of life.  Kristina has been able to connect and build a powerful bond of trust with Beryl.

On that first visit, Kristina was advised that Betty Lou's self-perception was still that of a young athlete. Kristina reported afterward that she used a little competitive motivation with her client and then had to slow things right down. While out for some exercise, what started as a prompt to pick up the walking pace - 'let's see how fast we can walk?' - nearly resulted in a full out footrace!

Kristina is sure to keep a close eye on any changes she notices, such as Betty Lou having the unfortunate experience of contracting scabies, not once, but twice during the past year. Kristina was given the responsibility of following an extremely detailed plan devised to rid the home of all the bugs. She worked diligently, bagging and storing all of her household items. Kristina helped Betty Lou shower and ensured medicated creams were applied by home care staff. Kristina went through this very involved process two separate times, even taking recommended treatment herself, without so much as batting an eyelash! She made herself available during days she didn't normally work or extended her days with Betty Lou to include all that was needed to be done in order to accomplish this—no easy feat when you have a lively woman with dementia not wanting to go through the process. Because she trusted Kristina, Betty Lou relied on her instruction and didn't put up a fight even though her world was turning upside down.

During this experience, Kristina kept Betty Lou calm, settled and tried to keep her daily routine in place as much as possible. Each morning she continued to meet Betty Lou downstairs where they always began the day playing shuffleboard. They enjoyed their morning together which involved breakfast, sometimes appointments or outings, walking and playing games, talking and connecting as friends do.

Kristina knows when to give Betty Lou space and removes herself if she appears agitated, re-entering a short time later and picking up where she left off. Her communication with Betty Lou and our office keeps all bonds strong and flowing. The family is grateful for this since they don't live in the same city. They have come to rely on Kristina's relationship with their mother/grandmother and trust Kristina's instincts about Beryl's needs.

Kristina has built this, over time, in a loving, considerate and often humorous manner (we wonder how many hiding places for hearing aids she has actually uncovered!) ensuring that those hours with her will be the absolute best part of Beryl's day. Kristina delights in sharing their experiences together and joyfully opens her heart each day to be that compassionate presence Betty Lou has come to rely upon.

Last fall, the services of Home Instead were recommended by a Long Term Care home for Debra (name changed), a 67-year-old retired nurse who was struggling to adjust to her new home. At her young age, she was diagnosed with dementia and psychiatric related conditions. Intense behaviours accompanied her illness.

Debra's care home staff struggled to manage her behaviours - they could not provide her constant attention as they had to attend to other residents. The agreement was to organize a short term intensive schedule of Home Instead caregivers for Debra to help her settle in her new home.

We were asked to help Debra through each day and enable her to depend less on constant staff attention. For example, one goal was to help Debra become comfortable walking down the hall without holding someone's hand. As part of a team of Home Instead Caregivers Kristina was willing and ready to take on the challenge of this unique care plan.

We were to observe Debra from afar, only stepping in to settle her if her agitation was escalating. The Director of Care wanted clear documentation of what methods worked and what did not. Debra's state of agitation brought out behaviours such as anger, screaming, pounding on her chest, hitting and pinching. Debra needed to walk constantly; she only stopped to eat and sleep. Sometimes Debra's anxiety caused her to run into rooms and close a door behind her. She would panic when she could not remember how to get out and sometimes this caused her to try to crawl out the window.

Kristina reported that she enjoyed her first visit with Debra. They walked steadily, and Kristina kept only a few steps behind. This went on for 6 hours. Kristina followed, using encouraging words to let Debra know she was safe walking alone. Kristina also reassured her that she was listening, and there was no need to scream.

After serving Debra for only a few weeks, Debra would run to Kristina the minute she walked through the door. With encouraging words, Debra became able to walk on her own, and the screaming became less and less. It was a tall order - to ask caregivers to observe from afar, as it would have been so much more familiar to take her by the hand and form the relationship, which is the exact reason that our caregivers come to work with Home Instead!

Kristina went above and beyond, adjusting her availability to provide continuity for Debra. She never once commented on how challenging this was. Kristina saw in Debra the 67 years old retired nurse that struggled with a devastating illness. She also saw in Debra's husband a man who was abrasive due to the grief of losing their retirement years together and fear of the challenges ahead.

The care home's Director of Care called our office to tell us how impressed she was with Kristina's care and thanked us for the support Home Instead provided them. Kristina gained the respect of care home staff and demonstrated a variety of methods to manage Debra's behavior.

Whether caring for her senior clients, volunteering in the community or representing our office at public events Kristina brings her energy and enthusiasm and is actively involved to help our company succeed!