Caregiving has always been a part of everyday life for Alegre Home Care staff member Jamie C. She has a long family history of caregiving, as both her mother and grandmother were certified nursing assistants. When Jamie was just 8 years old, her mother was diagnosed with lupus and Jamie learned firsthand how important empathy and compassion can be when caring for someone who has an illness. Since then, she has always valued the importance of caring for others.
Jamie had her first official caregiving client when she was 18 and right away she knew she had found her calling. “I love my life,” she says, “Even when there are challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or when a client passes away, I still love being a caregiver.”
For Jamie, the challenges are worth it to be in service of others and to have a job she feels passionately about. Since joining Alegre Home Care team in 2017, Jamie’s life as a caregiver has been full of enriching experiences. There was one point where, on the same day, she had a client who was living out the end of their life in hospice and a 4 month old baby who was at the very beginning of her life’s journey. That’s when it donned on Jamie, “This is how precious life is.” An aspect of caregiving people don’t often think about is gaining perspectives like this and how it can open your eyes to so many things.
Caregiving can even make you a superhero. In February 2020, a client’s home caught fire and almost burned down. Fortunately, Jamie had been with the client for over three years and had transitioned to a live-in position, so she was able to carry her client out in time. If her client had been living alone, the situation would have had an entirely different result. This significant example demonstrates why having a home caregiver is so important.
Working for A Quality Home Care Agency
The quality of the in-home care agency is just as important as the caregivers. This is why Jamie feels proud to be part of Alegre Home Care. As the only LGBT-certified home care agency in Northern California, Alegre Home Care makes sure that everyone — no matter their background — has access to high quality home care services. Jamie is in transition as a transgender person herself and believes that the LGBTQ community needs to feel safe and comfortable receiving care in their own homes. This is especially necessary for the San Francisco Bay Area, which has an aging LGBTQ population. Home care services from an agency that understands their background allows LGBTQ seniors to maintain their identity even in the vulnerability of old age, which is already a difficult phase of life on its own.
This is just one example of how Alegre Home Care goes above and beyond for all of its clients. Caregivers receive ongoing dementia care training, as well as continual education in other areas such as Parkinson’s Disease and memory care. Caregivers work closely with the agency staff and clients in order to create the best care plans for each individual’s unique needs and preferences.
As a caregiver, Jamie also enjoys going above and beyond for her clients. For example, her former training as a sous chef in Napa Valley is something she has integrated into her home care services. Not everyone has the same cultural background, so caregivers need to learn how to make different foods and recipes so that clients are satisfied and feel like they’re at home. Being a chef allows Jamie to go that extra mile and make amazing meals for her clients.
The Benefits of Being a Home Caregiver
One of Jamie’s favorite aspects of being a caregiver is the human connection. Jamie has found that clients become like family or best friends, especially when she is with them all the time and on a long-term basis. In-home caregiving is a service-oriented job, but caregivers help with almost everything the client needs and this forms a bond. Jamie goes home thinking about her clients and cares for them as if they are family. For instance, when shopping sometimes her store has things a client’s grocery store doesn’t, so she purchases those items for her client. Or if she sees something that a client might like, she doesn’t hesitate to put it in her shopping cart.
Even the challenges feel like benefits for Jamie. With memory care services, clients will sometimes no longer remember who she is, but Jamie still remembers who they are. Part of providing memory care is enabling people to still maintain their identity and retain their personalities. Jamie finds it rewarding to find ways for her clients to enjoy those parts of themselves without trying to force them to remember, such as playing a favorite song or making a favorite meal.
Jamie understands that caregivers need to find a balance between caring for themselves and caring for others. To find that balance for herself, Jamie draws upon the wisdom of her grandmother. “My grandmother always tells me, caregivers need love, too. The little things in your own life make a big difference for your health, because you are always taking care of others. Finding time for yourself is important. There are a lot of hours that different clients need, so you become quite skillful in time management.”
Jamie also points out that while caregivers are not supposed to be fixing things in a client’s home, caregivers do become very versatile, whether it’s cooking, mending a broken chair, doing makeup, or even painting nails. “You do a lot of different things and you learn a lot and clients will even teach you. You have to be versatile with personality and with skill all the time.”
Caring for Others Is a Calling
Jamie loves being an in-home caregiver and also yearns to be a pediatric nurse and work in a nursing home as an RN. She is aiming for a college degree in the nursing field and wants to work in pediatric and geriatric care after she graduates. She wants to go beyond the medical aspect of nursing, and focus on the things from the soul that help people live an enriched life.
Above all, Jamie strives to set an example. She leads with compassion and empathy and helps other caregivers do the same. One of the things she loves about working with a home care agency is meeting other caregivers. Jamie feels that it’s important for caregivers to help each other and work together as co-mentors. She believes that once you establish trust, either with clients or fellow caregivers, the ability to be your true self naturally follows.