Joy Oakes can’t sit down for more than an hour.
After 32 years as a medical-surgical, NICU and postpartum nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, her second career as a home health aide and homemaker-companion is keeping her busier than ever. And that’s exactly how she likes it.
After I retired from nursing, I wanted to stay productive. I had the opportunity to work in administration and billing, Joy explains. A friend of mine was working for Best of Care and recommended that I explore a position there. I’m really a caregiver at heart, and I put 110 percent into everything I do. So the transition has been great.
For the past three years Joy has paid twice-or-thrice weekly visits to 10 of Best of Care’s elderly clients in Quincy, Weymouth and Hingham, Massachusetts. Depending on their needs, she may provide personal care, housekeeping, laundry, errands, cooking and perhaps most important, companionship.
Many of my clients children are nearby and are involved in their care. Some live far away. But they have to make a living, so obviously they can’t help all the time. As a caregiver, I fill in the blanks with what our clients need, Joy explains.
Observation, empathy and action help Joy tailor what she does — and how she does it — for each client. The process begins with getting to know what they enjoy doing, what makes them happy, sad or angry, the subtle but important ways in which they express their needs. It also means keeping track of changes in their health, and their ability to manage basic activities of daily living, so that Best of Care’s nursing team can address emerging issues.
Joy’s relationship with one client, who has Alzheimer’s disease, means paying attention to non-verbal cues and building on the positive. When I offer meals, I’ve come to understand her motions and sounds to articulate when she is full. I am always trying to do new things with her: playing new music, reading, watching a TV program, which gives me a sense of how she is feeling that day. And by engaging with her, I am seeing some improvement in how she relates to me and others.
One of Joy’s clients was a hoarder; his house had become dangerously cluttered. Rather than immediately throwing away his stuff, however, Joy took a gradual approach. It was really important to build his trust, so I made sure that he was able to see and give his OK on every item we organized or disposed of, no matter how unnecessary the object seemed, Joy said. Joy also helped the client clean, cook and shop, supporting his new, less cluttered lifestyle.
When a 90-year-old client, who lived by herself in an apartment building, could no longer read the push button dial numbers on her phone, Joy found a solution. This little lady had a lot of life in her, she just couldn’t see. Her only relatives, a niece and her husband, live in another state. And if you’re old and alone, and you can’t see the numbers on your phone to call for help, that’s a big problem, Joy said. While at the bargain basement store, I picked up a phone with huge numbers on the dial, and this client reimbursed me. I’m pretty handy, so I installed a new jack and wired the phone in her kitchen. It helped her immensely.
Find out how Joy is helping more Best of Care clients in our next blog post!
Does your elderly loved one live in Greater Boston, the South Shore, Cape Cod or the Vineyard? Want to find out how personalized in-home care can help him or her and give you peace of mind? Joy Oakes is one of more than 300 professional, licensed home health aides and homemaker companions at Best of Care that are ready to serve your family.