The choice to hire a Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA) to care for your loved one may actually save his or her life! Recently our CHHA Maria Anchietta used her in-service training to identify symptoms of a stroke in her patient. Maria immediately called 911 and the patient was transferred to the hospital before further stroke damage could occur. Outstanding service and caring professionalism are two of the many reasons Maria and several of her colleagues were recently named “Aide of the Month” by Family & Children’s Service (FCS) Home Care Services.
With her warm smile and infectious laughter, Maria, who was named Aide of the Month for December, says she realized her true calling when she moved here from Brazil and began working with children with special needs.
“I discovered then that I am a giver,” Maria says. “I liked taking care of people.”
Six years ago, Maria joined a team of more than 85 FCS CHHAs providing home care throughout Monmouth County for seniors and individuals with mental, developmental and physical disabilities. The agency currently serves over 166 seniors and disabled clients, a majority of whom qualify for grant assistance. Every CHHA works under the supervision of a registered nurse and follows a delegated regimen that may include providing assistance bathing, showering or toileting; helping a patient get dressed; preparing meals; helping with transfers and ambulating; grocery shopping or running errands.
“You are a little bit of everything to your patients,” Maria says. “You are their cook, their counselor, and therapist. You have to have your heart in the right place. You must be willing to give a little more than is expected.”
FCS Director of Nursing Kathleen Vourlos says CHHAs are much more than personal care attendants. They are also a source of social interaction, routine monitoring for clients with minimal support, and the eyes and ears that can detect changes in a client’s status.
“On numerous occasions the nurse and/or CHHA has identified life threatening conditions that required emergency intervention.” Kathleen says. “There is no doubt that our nurses and Home Health Aides have saved lives.”
CHHA Charlene Shaw, Home Care Service’s Aide of the Month for October, says she originally considered nursing school before completing her CHHA training at FCS more than fifteen years, but raising four children on her own forced her to change directions.
“Being an Aide actually worked out better for me,” Charlene says, “It’s given me the flexibility to set my own hours and be there for my family when they need me.”
Now a grandmother of nine grandchildren, Charlene says she still enjoys her work because it allows her time to be “with the joys of her life” while helping her patients live more independently.
“Being an aide requires patience, lots and lots of patience,” Charlene says, “But the work is worth it. When you have somebody come out of surgery or rehabilitation and can help them along and see them recover, that is rewarding.”
Elaine Austin, FCS Aide of the Month for September, worked as a nanny for seventeen years before completing her CHHA training with FCS. Elaine says her many years working with children helped prepare her for her current job helping older adults and the disabled.
“Many of the patients I work with have Alzheimer’s disease,” Elaine says. “Although they may be older, their mental state is that of a child. I have to watch them carefully in order to keep them safe.”
Elaine has also completed additional training to assist with her client’s needs. While all of FCS aides are trained to carry out special skills, Director of Nursing Kathleen Vourlos says aides like Elaine, Charlene and Maria demonstrate additional qualities, such as compassion, empathy and a kind spirit; characteristics that can not be taught in a classroom.
Elaine, who came to the United States more than twenty years ago from Jamaica, says her motto in life is to follow the Golden Rule, to do unto others as they would do unto you.
“I am young, but like everyone else, I am getting older,” Elaine says. “And when I am old, I would like God to send me the same person as myself to take care of me.”