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The Day-in-the-Life of an At Home Preferred Caregiver

by At Home Preferred on June 5, 2012

When I started in home care for RN & Allied Specialties, I had just finished my first year in nursing school. Having only been in the hospital a couple of times throughout nursing school, I wasn’t sure what to expect of home care.

As a nursing student, I could not have known just how much I’d learn about myself as a nurse nor how special the relationship with my first patient would be. For the purpose of confidentiality and anonymity I will refer to my patient as Margaret.

I vividly remember my first day with Margaret. She was a recently widowed woman the age of my own grandmother. She was a great-grandmother of two. Walking into her home at 8:00 AM, I mentally ran through everything I wanted to accomplish that day.

The realization that ‘things do not always go according to plan’ quickly set in as she slept in until 10:30 that morning. As part of my duties, I wanted to get some cleaning and vacuuming done around the home, but wouldn’t dare cause too much of a ruckus and wake her. When she woke up I greeted her and asked her what she wanted for breakfast.

She requested an egg over-easy and some toast. Being a scrambled egg eater myself I finished preparing her meal only after accidentally breaking the yolk twice. Embarrassed from my failures, I apologized for the delay and Margaret told me there was nothing to be sorry for. Her calm and understanding demeanor was the foundation of our blooming nurse-patient relationship.

A Typical Day with Margaret

Days usually started at 8am. I would prepare her medications, insulin, and eye drops to be given before breakfast. Then I’d do some light cleaning until she woke up, followed by medication administration as I prepared breakfast.

Then I would start the shower; pick out the day’s outfit; lay out her comb, perfume and toothbrush with toothpaste on it to remind her of those hygienic duties. After telling Margaret her shower was ready, I made her bed, gathered linens or clothes that needed to be washed and cleaned the dishes from breakfast.

She loved watching old black and white movies and we’d often sit down and we’d watch them together. She would sit there and watch those movies all day and night if she didn’t love going out for lunch every day.

About 11:30 AM I’d ask if she was ready to go to lunch and she always responded “Oh, yes!” Just happy to get out of the house, she always had me pick the place and I was especially appreciative that she always insisted on paying.

Working with Margaret was like spending time with my own grandma that had passed away a couple years prior. I felt like I had a purpose beyond providing health services; I was a friend to talk to and allowed her to have the same freedoms she enjoyed before losing some vision and hearing due to age.

After lunch we’d come home for medications, insulin & eye drops and then she’d go back to her movies or her other favorite, the Food Network. I’d dust, finish laundry, clean the bathrooms and watered her indoor plants. Then I’d complete the grocery shopping for the next week and ensure Margaret had one of her favorite snacks, so long as they were relatively healthy and a small portion size.

She loved fresh flowers and each week I bought her a new bouquet. Her face lit up every time I placed the flowers on her table, and seeing happiness come from something as simple as flowers made me realize how important the little things are. It’s easy to get busy in hospitals with so many tasks requiring a time sensitive completion, but Margaret showed me the importance of remembering small things can make a big difference.

At dinner I’d give her third round of medications and insulin, if needed, and prepared her dinner. Then I’d clean the dishes, tidy up the kitchen, and lay out her nightgown and non-skid socks. When 8 PM rolled around I’d turn on the kitchen lights to safely guide her for the usual midnight snack, ensure she had her medic-alert necklace on and wished her a good night.

She always thanked me for staying with her and told me to drive home safely.

As Margaret’s home care nurse, I learned to think on my feet to and eventually how to make a perfect over-easy egg. A couple of weeks into working with her I realized it was more than just a job when on my own time, I began making to-do lists for the next time I worked with her. Working in home care has shown me versatility in my nursing abilities and an increased respect for forming trusting and meaningful relationships with my patients no matter how long they are in my care. Margaret taught me to be patient with myself and most importantly, how wonderful making a new friend can be.

Elyse Leahy