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Thursday, September 12, 2024

SASI Stories: SASI Care Partner, Dan

CMSS’ SASI Home Care program provides non-medical home assistance to adults across Chicagoland. We assist older adults so they can remain in their homes and communities. We focus on ensuring the comfort of the people we serve and work to reduce the burden of care that often falls on family and friends. SASI Care Partners are highly trained and experienced in providing care to individuals living with memory loss.

This series shares the story of the SASI program from the perspective of Care Partners and clients. The below is an interview with Dan, one of the SASI Care Partners. 

Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. Let’s start with the general information – when did you first start working in home care, and what initially drew you to this work?

D: I have worked as a SASI Care Partner for three years. Before taking this job, I didn’t work in home care professionally, but I had spent time providing care to friends of mine, as well as family members. I cared for both of my parents when the time came. My sister saw the excellent care I provided for my parents, and she was the first to suggest to me that I might want to work in home care. So before coming to this work professionally, I had gotten some good experience.

Q: SASI provides a range of care options for folks in various circumstances and with many different needs. What types of care are you generally providing as a Care Partner?

D: I mostly work with folks living with neurological and physiological conditions. Some SASI clients experience difficulties or limitations with mobility, and they might have a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Of course, I provide care to people living with Alzheimer’s, other dementias, and even conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Q: What do you find to be the most rewarding part of working in home care?

D: It might sound predictable, but the best part of this job is seeing an individual who feels happy and content with the care I provide. It’s great to see this satisfaction from both the client and their family and friends. Sometimes – especially if I’m working with someone living with memory loss – when I arrive in the morning, their demeanor may be angry or frustrated, and they might be confused or wary about my presence. I really feel like I have accomplished something if I can turn those days around and ensure the client is feeling better when I leave.

A caregiver helps an older adult shave.

Q: What is something you have learned from this job?

D: When you work in this field, you definitely become more patient. I learned a lot about patience when I first started caring for family and friends years ago. In this job, it’s great when our clients are happy to have us there and to have our help, but also, the reality is that oftentimes we are working with folks who may not remember us. It’s so important for us to meet clients where they are and exercise patience. Growing my patience over the years has also helped me to learn patience in other aspects of my life. Patience is a powerful thing.

Q: Tell me more about what you mean by “meeting clients where they are.”

D: “Meeting people where they are” is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. So, I ask myself, if I were this client, how would I want a Care Partner to adjust my care, to treat me, to work with me? It’s all about empathy.

A couple of years ago, I had a client living with advanced, late-stage Parkinson’s disease. When I arrived at their home, they were disoriented; they could not walk and could barely speak. I saw that this person was not just struggling physically, but also emotionally.

I sat and talked with them, read some stories, and we did a light exercise routine. I was determined to try to create a day that was soothing and uplifting for them. Then the client was supposed to take a bath but indicated they didn’t want to. So, this is a moment where I adjust to meet people where they are. I was able to provide a sponge bath as an alternative. And I put on calming classical music to make the experience more relaxing. By the time I left at the end of the day, I could see a noticeable change in the client, and they were even able to smile and say thank you to me. That positive change in the client was impactful. I was happy to see him calmer and happier.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering home care for themselves or their family member?

D: I encourage people to start exploring the possibility of professional home care before it feels like an urgent issue. For example, if you are think that in a year you might want care for a parent, it doesn’t hurt to talk to a provider today. Whether you get a full assessment or just start to familiarize yourself with the options available to you, planning ahead can make the process much easier when the time comes for this type of support.

 

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