MY STORY

I am a former elementary school teacher who is in the process of transitioning to a new career to enable people to maintain personal independence by assisting with home maintenance, facilitating daily activities, improving communication techniques, and providing stimulating companionship. I currently work as a part time assistant property manager in Fairport helping to maintain more than twenty apartments in homes throughout the village. 


About ten years ago, my family and I had to make a tough decision, one that we weren’t sure was right. My three brothers, sister, and I had considered finding assisted living for my mom and dad, who live in Pennsylvania, because it was getting difficult for them to maintain their home as their physical and mental health declined.   After discussing this with my parents, we decided that they would be better off emotionally and financially staying in their home.  The distance made this decision problematic, but we had hopes that we could find periodic assistance in their home town when we couldn’t be there.  We did find some help with cleaning for my mom, but what we found most difficult was finding a compassionate person who could assist my father in caring for his home, which after his family was what gave him satisfaction and sense of purpose.   We could find people to come in and do things for him, but this was devastating to my dad’s ego because they didn’t include him, listen to his suggestions, nor did he think they completed the job as well as he would have himself.   As a result, my four siblings and I all spent time at their home helping out as best as we could. 

Since, my area of expertise was home maintenance; I was responsible for prioritizing and coordinating
these tasks. Dad didn't like the idea of others doing the tasks that were his jobs.  For instance, as his knees became weak, my mom requested a ramp because she was afraid Dad would fall climbing the steps or that when he gripped her arm for balance and to pull himself up he’d pull her down with him.  As we were building the ramp, he came to tell us that he’d never use the &%#@ thing so why were we wasting 
our time and money.  I immediately included him in the project by asking for advice and assistance.   A week later, I received a call from my mother who said Dad used it every day and was now able the help carry in the groceries with the help of a little shopping cart.  When someone would ask about the ramp, he’d proudly tell them that he and his son built it. 

 

Initially, Dad and I worked together as much as possible (which was a blessing in disguise).  Gradually, we found out that he had several mishaps after the family had left when he worked alone. We attributed these to his deteriorating physical health, reaction time, and decision making skills.  We had to start hiding or removing ladders, power tools, and other items when we weren’t around.  This was not easy for the family or my dad, but it needed to be done for safety reasons.  Dad began to understand when we honestly explained to him that if he ended up in the hospital there was a chance he might never return home (his/our worst fear).  We tried to find other replacement hobbies or interests but he was set in his ways.  We were also unable to find a responsible helper and patient companion who could work with him around the house when we were unable to be there.  I may be wrong, but I believe the right kind of personal assistance would have helped sustain his mental capacities, physical health, and quality of life for a bit longer.

 

Over the past five years, we all knew his health was waning.  It was trying on my mom and family, but mostly on my dad.  He could still get around the house with difficulty, and even got out of the house a few times a week, but spent much of the day inactive and watching TV.  Due to his lifelong temperament,  I feared my father might become angry and depressed, which he did at times, but he slowly began to accept his health issues as we assured him we would continue to maintain the house just so he could stay at home as long as possible. We included him in many decisions to make the house safer and more accessible.  He enjoyed watching me do all the things he used to do and I often took his advice even though it took longer to complete the task. Dad adapted to the role reversals and even began to enjoy his supervisory position. I had him help whenever he could but this became less and less frequent.

A few years ago, the day after Christmas, my father died peacefully with his family at his side.  In the years prior to his death, even with all his limitations, he would declare himself “the luckiest man alive” and would clarify this statement by letting everyone know that he had his beautiful wife who loved him, a family who took care of him, and he was in the home that he loved.  We knew we had made the right decision.

My mom is still fairly independent and in good health.  She remains in the home although she is understandably not as attached to it as she once was.  Fortunately, she is able to take the time to make a decision about the house because the family maintains it as it always has been.  Thankfully, my brothers and sister have the time to visit regularly and help her manage the home and activities. 

I understand that many families are not quite as fortunate.  Additionally, many seniors do not want to feel they are a burden to their children and understand the busy lives they lead.  They seek trusting and reliable help to maintain their home and active lives.  My career objective is to assist people in this these situations to enable them to live independently and maintain a comfortable lifestyle.   While this includes a large population of seniors, it also includes those with disabilities, people in rehabilitation, or anyone who need short or long term assistance with activities that they are unable to complete by themselves.  With families spread out across the country, I feel there is a growing need for this type of service.   I am excited to pursue such a challenging and rewarding career that allows me use my unique experiences to meet the needs of others.