Charlene Erikson has been a caregiver and CNA for over 18 years. Originally based in California, Charlene was working in assisted living and nursing homes before she discovered home care. “I love working with seniors,” she said, “and when you’re not overloaded with multiple clients at the same time, it lets you get to know them as individuals and provide that one-on-one attention that is only possible with home care. As a CNA I’ve worked with all ages including infants and children. I really like working with seniors. They are always interesting. I can learn from them, and I appreciate that they have a lot of life experience.”
In 2011, Charlene moved to Washington State and for the next 5 years worked for several different companies including the Washington Soldiers Home. But she became disillusioned as over and over she found that the companies were not interested in, or considered the needs of their caregivers. A year ago she saw an ad for a Family Resource Home Care open house and in talking to Family Resource staff, she felt a huge difference in the way they interacted with her.
“The Family Resource staff made me feel like I was part of a team,” Charlene explained. “I work out of the Tacoma office and I love all the supervisors, Maria, Ashlyn, and Doreen. Anytime I have a question, concern or worry, they are there.”
Currently, Charlene works full-time for Family Resource and has 5 clients. She says that while every client is different, she has a similar approach with each. “Every time I come into a client’s home I do a quick assessment to see if there are any changes in their condition. If I see something, I let my supervisors know right away. I’m always interacting with my clients; it’s important to me that I do not only what they need, but that I do it the way they want. I want them to feel comfortable and know that everything is taken care of. My goal is that when I leave my client’s home, they feel that everything is done; that there is nothing to feel stressed about, and they can relax and have peace of mind.”
While Charlene tries to keep all of her clients busy and engaged, one of her clients has a unique activity included in his care plan. “His care plan states that he gets to go to the casino 3 times a week,” says Charlene. “Once a week I take him. He has mild dementia so I have to watch him carefully but he is so happy there. Usually, he just wants to stay in one place and play the slot machines.”
Charlene has a clear idea of what makes a good caregiver. “Compassion, understanding, and kindness have to be there,” she says. “And a great caregiver likes their job; this is where they want to be and what they want to be doing. Great caregivers want to make a difference in their client’s lives. When they leave a shift, a great caregiver will have made their client’s life easier and given them peace of mind. For me,” says Charlene, “this work has great rewards because you know you are making another person’s life better, just by being there and caring.”