This month’s Platinum Caregiver Award goes to Charlene Erikson from our Tacoma region. Client Care Supervisor, Dorene Robbins, says “Charlene is compassionate and kind-hearted and has fantastic skills. I have complete trust in her and know that I can send her to any client and she will make a special connection. She has great communication skills and is flexible with her schedule. She is dedicated to her clients and always does whatever it takes to meet her client’s needs. We truly appreciate her!”
Charlene’s first experience caring for others was as a teenager in Northern California, babysitting for her neighbor’s kids. Later, she cared for an uncle and then for her own mother. After graduation, she worked at different skilled nursing centers and assisted living facilities and discovered that she loved interacting with the patients. She earned her CNA license and considered going into nursing but observed that the nursing staff were required to spend much of their time in the nurse’s station entering information on computers. “It was too much paperwork for me!” Charlene said. She wanted to get to know the patients and interact with them on a personal level. “I loved getting to know my patients, learn their history, and hear their stories,” said Charlene. But with so many clients to care for she became frustrated that she did not have enough time to spend with each patient. That was when she discovered home care. She had found her calling.
In 2011, after spending several years doing home care in CA, Charlene moved to WA State, renewed her CNA license, and started her search for employment. Between 2011 and 2016 she worked for two home health agencies as well as the WA State Soldiers Home. Looking for a change that would provide benefits and a better salary, Charlene discovered Family Resource Home Care and when she went in for an interview, she was hired on the spot. “I wanted to work 40 hours a week and Family Resource gave me that. At first, I did a lot of fill-in and short shifts but that was okay,” said Charlene. “I knew I had to work my way up to having regular clients. Now I have four clients; two that I have been with for a long time, one that I see just once a week, and another client that I see twice a year!”
Charlene’s twice-a-year client is a gentleman whose full-time caregiver is unable to fulfill two specific holiday requests – to go out on New Year’s Eve and to watch fireworks from a boat on the Fourth of July. Happily, Charlene was ready to step up – and step out. Every New Year’s Eve since 2016, she and her client get dressed up and enjoy music, dinner, and a New Year’s countdown on the town. Seven months later, they go on a Fourth of July cruise where dinner, a show, and fireworks are the highlight. “I am very happy to go with him; he really enjoys these activities,” says Charlene. “It takes some preparation. He is unable to chew and swallow solids so I bring a special blender so I can blend his food. But it’s not a big deal. It’s a tradition now.”
Charlene sees one of her clients six days a week. “She is sweet, easy-going, and a firecracker,” says Charlene. “My other long-time client is also sweet and easy-going with a wonderful personality and a great sense of humor. He has a live-in caregiver, but I see him four times a week while his caregiver runs errands and goes shopping.”
No matter who the client is or whether they live alone, with another caregiver, family member, or in a group setting, Charlene’s experience allows her to comfortably accommodate and respond to the specific expectations and requests of her clients. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years,” she says, “and I’ve learned to really listen to my clients. I understand and respect that they want things done a specific way. I can’t go into someone’s home with an expectation of how I’m going to do things. A good caregiver must be willing to go with what the client wants – so long as they are not endangering themselves. I get to know my clients and learn their quirks and needs and what is most important to them. I find that when I walk into a situation confident and willing to listen, my client will feel comfortable, safe, and happy.”
And from what we hear, Charlene’s clients all do feel comfortable, safe, and happy. That is why she is our June 2020 Caregiver of the Month.