Meet Caregiver Nichole M.

Firefly caregiver Nichole M. is the November Caregiver of the Month. We would like to congratulate Nichole and thank her for her hard work and dedication to improving the lives of her clients. Catching up to a caregiver is never easy, but we finally caught up to Nichole to talk for a few minutes and take some pictures.

Tell us about you: I’m a wife, caretaker for my husband, mother of four, and I’m an oma to
two—which is my favorite role! I met my husband when both our boys were young, and now
they are in their twenties. I have two beautiful daughters-in-law and our amazing daughter will
soon be twenty.

What led you to becoming a caregiver? I have been a medical assistant for over twenty years.
My first job in podiatry included taking care of the homebound and going to assisted living
facilities on Saturdays. I first became a caregiver in 2008 after my husband was injured in Iraq.
He served in the army infantry before we met. After the September 11 attacks, we discussed
him returning to the military, and he re-enlisted as a military police officer for the United States
Air Force. He was injured while serving in Iraq. After he recovered, he went to Afghanistan as a
private contractor in security where he was injured again. When he returned home from
Afghanistan, he was given a 100% disability rating. I decided to quit my job as a medical
assistant and began taking care of him through the VA Caregiver Program. They provided the
training and tools I needed to help care for him, not just with his physical disabilities, but the
mental and emotional support he needed as well. Prior to being in the VA Caregiver Program, I
took care of both of my grandmothers and an aunt until their end-of-life. Taking care of my
husband and family members over the years, I found caregiving is my passion.

When did you begin working for Firefly? It was about one-and-a-half years ago. My husband
continues to need care throughout the day and to attend doctor appointments. I missed patient
interactions and wanted to return to work. Shift flexibility was a requirement for me and Firefly
offered evening shifts and the flexibility I needed. Firefly is a perfect fit for me—I can do what I
love and continue being a support to my family. I currently work evening shifts, which allows me
to care for my husband, attend doctor appointments as needed, along with continuing to go to
appointments and meetings through the VA Caregiver Program.

Can you describe what you do for one of your clients? With one of my clients, his wife had
been my client, but when she passed away unexpectedly, Firefly stayed on to provide help for
him. He’s a very independent ninety-one years old, but over the years, he stopped being as
active and doing the things he enjoyed prior to her health decline. His family and I encourage
him and it’s been great to see a spark back in him. On Monday nights, I take him to play Bingo,
and when the weather was nice this past summer, he’d take me out on his golf cart and we’d
pick up his mail, and ride around for a while.

Nichole and her client getting ready for the day

What are your interests outside of caregiving? Hosting Sunday dinners and attending church with my family, and more recently, being on the hymn selection committee. I also love photography! I have a camera and attended a photography course with a local photographer. Photography has been wonderful for my self-care and I’m hoping to continue learning photography and one day have a side business.

Has anything surprised you while caregiving? Oh, there have been many surprises! One of my
clients has dementia, and she knows me by a necklace I wear. When I’m near her, she’ll smile at
me and pat my necklace. One day, I went to fix something on her and she thought I was leaning
in to give her a hug. She surprised me when she hugged me and I just melted. This same client
doesn’t talk very much. One day, I made a motion to my lips to communicate I wanted to put
chapstick on her and she grabbed my face and kissed me! Another client with dementia knows
my mother from school. It was amazing when I mentioned my mother to her. She said, “Oh,
what’s your mother’s name?” When I told her, she lit up and said, “I know her, we are friends!”
She also attended the same church as my mother and played the organ for many years. After
dinner, we would go to her piano and she would play old church hymns by heart, and I would
sing with her.

One of Nichole’s clients shared this about the care he receives from Nichole: She’s a keeper!
She has a lot of experience because she was a medical assistant for many years. At first, she was
here to care for my wife who passed away about a year ago. Now she’s switched over to help
me. She cooks, cleans the house, and does all the things that she’s supposed to do. Sometimes
I’ll give her money and she’ll do the shopping and get what I need. I’m really fortunate to have
her. This past week, she was here for all seven days. She usually is here the 4pm to 8pm shift,
but this morning, she got a call that they didn’t have someone for this morning, so she picked up
my shift with little notice and took me to church today. We are both Lutheran and sometimes
she goes with me to my church and once in a while, I’ve gone to hers. I met her family—she has
a really nice family.

Sharing a good laugh and companionship with her client

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