“Working as a caregiver is my way of giving tribute to my great-grandfather and my grandmother,” says Dorenda Wheeler. When my great-grandfather was sick I was younger and did not have the knowledge to help him. When my grandmother was sick, she was still in New Jersey while I had already moved to Seattle. I always think of them when I am caring for my client and I treat him just the way I would have treated them. Really,” she concludes, “my client IS family.”
Dorenda came to Family Resource 5 years ago. She had been working 24-hour shifts in an adult family home and “had extra time on her hands.” She learned about FRHC from a friend and the fit was perfect. Today she is still working full-time with the same client she started with; a former Navy officer, now 95 years-old.
“When I first started with my client, he just talked and talked,” said Dorenda. “He loved telling stories about his time in the Navy and his years as a truck driver. Now he does not initiate conversation so much but he is used to being on the go so every day we go to McDonald’s for lunch. We sit with the same people and talk and laugh together. Even the staff knows him! He also loves driving and looking at the scenery. We drive through parks so he can see the flowers. There’s a waterpark for kids and he loves to drive by and see them having fun. One year during Christmas we drove through a park and even though he complained about all the wasted electricity he loved seeing the lights. He started singing Christmas carols and now driving through that park is one of our traditions.”
Dorenda’s enthusiasm for caregiving is obvious; as is the tremendous skill, affection, and understanding she brings to the job and her client. “Sometimes he can be challenging,” she says about her client, “but it’s important not to get frustrated. The most important thing is to look and listen to your client and try to figure out why he is saying or doing something. I slow down and take my time with him. I listen to him and think ‘what if he was my grandfather?'”
Caregiving was not Dorenda’s first career. “I did data entry in New Jersey and then got involved in caregiving. I wanted a change and my brother was in Seattle so I moved here and found work as a caregiver. Seven years later I went back to school and then got a job in a bank. That did not last long because I missed my clients. Some time later I went back to school again and moved to Arizona to work in the airline industry. Six weeks later I was back in Seattle doing caregiving again. Now, 22 years later, I know caregiving is my career and I would not change it for anything.”
Dorenda is happy to be a caregiver with Family Resource Home Care. “They are a great agency to work for,” she says. “They are flexible and understanding. If there is a problem they are on it right away and it is resolved quickly and professionally. They provide good training and make sure all my records are up-to-date. I especially appreciate that they are particular about the caregivers and staff they hire.”
By now all of Dorenda’s family has moved to the Seattle area. In her off time, she loves spending time with her grandchildren and also helps care for her own mother who is not well. She is grateful for her family, the life she has built in Seattle, and for her client, about whom she says, “He’s my heart.”