This month’s Platinum Caregiver Award goes to Grace Kariuki-Muite from our Seattle region. Grace was born in Kenya and remembers a childhood filled to the brim with six siblings and dozens of aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandmothers!
“One of my grandfathers had four wives and the other had three wives,” Grace explained. “Each wife had their own home where they lived with their children, but we all lived together on a large homestead. You can imagine what Christmas was like,” she said, chuckling. “One of my aunts had fourteen children! There were so many of us. It was quite a celebration.” Growing up in such a home, Grace was exposed to and developed a caregiving mentality. “In my home, everybody took care of each other,” she said. “We all cared for and felt responsibility for one another.”
Twenty-one years ago Grace moved to Seattle where some of her siblings had settled. Four years later, in 2003, Grace began working as a caregiver with Family Resource Home Care. “Since then I’ve worked on and off for Family Resource,” she said, “but in 2015 I started working for them full-time. My specialty is working with clients on hospice, those with dementia, and those who are going through rehab and are living short-term in a nursing home.”
Three weeks ago, the hospice client with whom Grace had worked for the past nine months passed away. For the last several months, at the client’s request, Grace had been her full-time caregiver, working seven days a week from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. “My client wanted to live at home and die in her own bed,” Grace explained. “She was 80 years old and was a very private person. She said she trusted me and was comfortable with me and wanted only me to help her. I knew her time was short so I sacrificed my time for my client and the company,” said Grace. “It was the right thing to do.”
“Grace set aside her entire life to work seven days a week to be with her client on hospice,” said Trish McKinney, Seattle Regional Manager. “She not only supported the client but was a tremendous help to the family.” Grace was with her client until she died and then washed and prepared her body for the funeral home. “This is what she wanted,” said Grace, “and I am happy that I was able to fulfill her final wish.”
Recalling what the last few months were like with her dying client, Grace reflected on the qualities a successful caregiver should have. “They must be very patient, kind, and respectful,” she explained. “They must be the kind of person who wants to understand their client and will take the time to really listen. Even if you think you know what your client wants, or is saying, caregivers must still stop and really listen. This is how you show respect and love.”
“This is not the kind of work you can do just for money,” Grace continued. “You must have a passion and a feeling for it.” Grace uses a particular phrase to describe what is asked of those who care for our elders. “I say that a caregiver walks with their client through their journey. We know what our clients’ final destination will be. Our job as caregivers is to make that final journey as comfortable and pleasant as possible.”
Grace is content with her life in Seattle. Two of her four children live nearby as well. “They are both married now so I am looking forward to grandchildren!” she said. Her other two children and grandchildren live in Kenya and she tries to visit them as much as possible. And Grace has only positive things to say about Family Resource Home Care. “It is a good company and is good to its caregivers,” she said. “The staff work hard to make good client-caregiver matches and are responsive when there is something I need.”
In turn, Family Resource is grateful to have Grace on our team and thanks her for her many years of commitment to her clients and our company.