“She’s very gracious and pleasant. She makes me feel happy. When she first comes to my house, we sit and talk for a few minutes and we find something to laugh about.” – Annie, Linda’s client
Tell us about you, Linda: I was born and raised in South Bend, but I’ve lived in many places, including Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee. I lived in Nashville for twelve years before coming back to South Bend to live. I have one son who lives in Nevada, and three grandchildren, ages sixteen, three, and six months. Oh, and I’ve traveled all over the United States.
What are some places you’ve traveled to? In 1975, I hitchhiked to San Diego. I was there for Fleet Week, which was a lot of fun. While I was there, I met a really nice couple who invited me to stay with them at their beach house. I was around seventeen years old then and they were around 60. But despite our age differences, we had the best time together. I also hitchhiked to Albany, New York, and I spent a summer there.
You are a Personal Care Assistant with Firefly. How did you find this career path? My first caregiving job was for my neighbor when I was twelve years old. He was a veteran who had lost both of his legs, and he needed some help. He approached my dad to see if I could help him out. Since then, I’ve worked in many aspects of care. I currently work full time at the Center for the Homeless and part time with Firefly. Before this, I worked at St. Joseph Hospital in the renal and dialysis unit and then in a unit for day surgery. When I lived in Nashville, I worked for the Nashville Recuse Mission. My parents were also older parents—almost like grandparents. My mom was 44 when I was born, my father was 65. As they became elderly, I was a caregiver for them as well. You could say I’ve been a caregiver off and on my whole life.
Linda is an excellent caregiver. She has a laugh that is contagious. She gives of herself in so many ways to so many people. I love having her as part of Firefly! – Dawn Allen, Linda’s Manager
You said you work part time for Firefly. What types of shifts do you work? I work from 10 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday and have between three and four clients throughout the week. I really appreciate how flexible Firefly is. They arrange my schedule around my hours with the Center for the Homeless where I work nights Tuesday through Saturday.
Can you tell us a little about one of your clients? I see Annie every Monday. I help clean her house, do laundry, that sort of thing. We have wonderful conversations—we talk about everything. We have both worked at the Center for the Homeless. She was the volunteer grandmother there. She’s a veteran. Actually, all of my clients are veterans. Like me, she’s traveled all over the country, and we share stories about out our travels. She also plays music and sews. We have a great time when I’m there; she loves to talk.
What is the most enjoyable part of your shift with her? There isn’t just one thing. We both enjoy our conversations. Some days, I braid her hair. She treats me like a granddaughter, even though she is only about twenty years older than I am. She’s kind of like family.
What do you wish people understood about caregiving? Caregiving is an act of love more than it is a job. You must have compassion and you have to want to do it. I mentioned my parents were more like grandparents to me. Every time I walk in someone’s house, I think about my parents and how I would want them to be treated. I have one client who is 95 years old. He’ll talk about how tired he is and how he doesn’t want to do anything. I’ll tell him he earned the right to not do anything he doesn’t want to do. I even bought him a cup that says, “I don’t wanna, I don’t hafta, and I ain’t gonna!”
Have you ever had a moment where you were there at just the right time for a client? My 95-year-old client lost his only son, but he didn’t know about it until later that day. His son’s estranged wife didn’t include him in any planning for the funeral, and he doesn’t know where his son is buried. He was heartbroken. He was close to his son, who came to visit him every day and gave him a hug hello and goodbye. I was there for him the day his son didn’t come to visit, and I was there the day he learned what happened. I told him it was okay to cry and to be mad. Some days like this one, you have to get past the daily responsibilities and just be there. Let them be a person, not only a client.
What are two other things about yourself you haven’t shared yet? When I was younger, I worked at Farrow Shows, an amusement show for children and adults. I was the head of kiddie land. Along with my team of twelve people, we ran the eight kiddie rides, including maintenance, tearing down the rides after each show, and setting them back up before the next show. It was also my responsibility to run the roller coaster. I also have a one-year-old Yorkie named Bentley. I take him everywhere! If he can’t go, then I can’t go.
One of Linda’s clients is Annie A. and she had wonderful things to say about her: She’s very gracious and pleasant. She makes me feel happy. When she first comes to my house, we sit and talk for a few minutes and we find something to laugh about. Then, she does all the things she is here to do: she starts the wash, helps me with a bath and getting dressed, cleans the kitchen and does dishes. Then she works on paperwork by telling me the things I need to take care of with my mail and helps me order supplies. She helps me take care of my plants, and truth be told, I’m not very good at that. Linda even gave me two plants and put directions on how to care for them. She gently reminds me when I’m not following the directions, and then she does what needs to be done. I enjoy Linda. She tells jokes and shares stories about her grandson.