Caregiving: Stories from the Home

When Paying It Forward Leads You to a Second Family

Hattie’s own experience drove her to become a caregiver for ComForCare to pay it forward. Leaving her life as a seamstress, she decided to make a difference in the life of someone who needed her.

When Erika was just 33, her life changed in an instant. Suddenly, Erika was struck by an illness called neuromyelitis optica. This rare illness left Erika paralyzed from her chest down. After a few months, she regained movement in her arms but remained paralyzed from her waist down.

When Hattie first started working with Erika she quickly assessed that she would be caring for the whole family, not just Erika.

Erika’s children were very young when her condition hit and following that, she spent 18 months in rehab. From the start, Hattie took it upon herself to ensure that Erika was supported as much as her children. They were 12 and 7 years old when Hattie first started. She spent time helping the kids with their homework, staying informed on school activities, making dinner for everyone, and keeping up on laundry. This allowed the family to work through their newfound normal with love and support. Hattie truly cares for each member of Erika’s family as if they are part of her own. She understands the entire family is going through something. Such kind awareness cannot be taught. Hattie’s compassion is both powerful and contagious, and it stems from her own challenges that she has had to overcome.

“I never saw being a caregiver for ComForCare as a job. I wanted to do it. 10 years ago my first born was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and most doctors were concerned about my son, rightfully so. But no one really took the time to ask me how I was personally doing as I was trying to process this diagnosis. Then one day, this caregiver came into my room and focused on both me and my son and simply asked me how I was doing and took the time to listen to my feelings. This was exactly what I needed and was a powerful experience that changed my life. After he got better, instead of me going back as a seamstress, I decided to become a caregiver and make a difference in someone’s life just as that caregiver did for mine. I loved what ComForCare was doing and how they were focused on being helpful towards people, so I joined their team.”

Erika's family has shared that Hattie has been a lifesaver and a match made in heaven.

Erika and her family gained confidence in Hattie’s care as they could immediately see the positive impact she had. Erika grew stronger quickly and her family became more optimistic. When Hattie first started, Erika couldn’t hold a cup or keep a grip on her own utensils for eating. Together, they worked hard to help Erika do things for herself. Hattie provided steadfast encouragement and made sure to celebrate all milestones, big or small, until Erika was happy with her own improvements.

After working with them for just a few months, Hattie helped the family get settled into a new routine that is still going strong seven years later.

“Bringing peace, laughter and happiness was a way to start getting things moving in the right direction,” said Hattie. “Plus, the self-determination that Erika had allowed me to work right alongside her.”

Over the years, Hattie has stood right beside Erika as she reads her mail, completes simple banking, does her nails, and arranges transportation for appointments and errands. They balance the everyday routines with listening to music, reading books, and discussing and laughing at TV shows. They even have good-natured debates about characters and stories.

“Erika’s kids (two of them) are almost my own kids' ages (I have four), and sometimes on my day off we meet up and we all do activities together like bowling or going out to eat,” shared Hattie. “We get her out and being together is wonderful. Our families connect and we all have fun.”

Hattie recognizes how keeping Erika’s spirit up is important for everyday life. Staying positive has such a tremendous impact on someone’s ability to recover. While the doctors say Erika’s condition may not change, she believes and has faith that one day she will walk again. And Hattie is always sure to be supporting her goals as the loudest cheerleader in the room.

Being a caregiver is giving life to someone and making a difference can be provided in different ways that is above and beyond basic tasks. It is all about the person you are taking care of. - Hattie M.

Hattie knew her and Erika were a perfect fit from day one. Her motivation to give life to others and make a difference, is made possible through caregiving with ComForCare.

“That difference can be in many ways: mentally, physically, providing company and being a person who is there. It is to go above and beyond and not just be task-oriented like just bringing someone a cup of water. It is really getting to know a person, letting them know you care, and asking things like: how did you wake up, or how are you feeling? It is all inclusive to the person you are caring for and making them feel cared for.”

This “care like family” approach to caregiving made a tremendous impact that turned a debilitating condition into something positive that cannot be measured with words. Erika and Hattie both gained a new family the first day they met, and they’ll forever be grateful for their shared compassion bringing them together.

Caring like family is a core value at ComForCare. Our caregivers step in to provide relief and assistance where family members are unable to do so. Not only do we nurture caregiver-client relationships by pairing complementary personalities, but we also encourage caregivers to design a routine that allows clients and their families to thrive. This flexibility allows clients like Erika to still manage their own independence while receiving the support they need.

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