It was when Juditha Mickelsen’s in-laws moved to a retirement home that she first spent extended time with older people. She discovered that she enjoyed speaking with them. “They are so full of stories. Each person I met had their own life history and I felt like I was really learning from them,” she said. Juditha also saw how the staff of the retirement home worked with each of the residents and thought she could see herself doing similar work. She gave it a try and liked it.
Juditha has worked as a caregiver for 12 years. She moved a number of times for her husband’s work but has been in Washington State for the past 3 ½ years. The home care agency she had been working with closed their doors, and she found Family Resource on Craig’s List. When Family Resource hired her they also gained a new client as Juditha’s client from her previous agency moved right along with her. She currently has four clients and works out of the Bellevue office.
“I like all my clients,” says Juditha. “The client I have from my previous agency had a stroke and has difficulty speaking. But she likes to be active and we take walks, exercise, and go shopping. Even though she has aphasia we have found our own ways to communicate and I can anticipate what she wants and needs.
“Another one of my clients has early stage dementia. She may not remember something from 20 minutes ago, but her long-term memory is just fine. She repeats herself a lot which can be challenging, but we are still able to have good conversations.”
Juditha has a strong opinion about what it takes to be a good caregiver. “The most important thing is to be a good listener,” she says. “Each person has their own way of communicating and they know how they want things done. I think it is important to do things the way your client wants them done. They are adults, not children, and they can still make their own decisions, even if it is just about how they want the towels folded.”
Juditha works about 32 hours a week and since her son got married and moved out, she has had more time to spend gardening and hiking with her husband. And while she enjoys her free time, she plans to continue her work as a caregiver.
“I really like to help, and the best part of my job is knowing that my clients trust me and enjoy having me there. Knowing that I can make a difference in their lives means everything to me.”