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Home to Stay

‘Aging in place’ is the goal of nine out of 10 boomers, requiring high tech, smart building … and the perfect in-home caregiver.

Jimmy Magahern | Feb 3, 2014, 1:31 p.m.

Often the family members seeking a caregiver for an aging parent will feel they’re lacking in both, as usually there’s a bit of guilt in hiring someone to provide a level of attention they feel they should provide themselves.

“I hear that from family members all the time: ‘I wish I could take care of Grandma myself,’” says Jason Nash, who runs the Home Instead office in Phoenix. “But there can be so much burnout if you’re that sole person delivering this care. It’s arguably the hardest job on the planet.

“The way we look at it, we allow the son or the daughter of our client to become the son or daughter again,” Nash says. “That is really our objective, to allow people to become the adult children again in those relationships—or, if it’s a spouse taking care of the client, for them to go back to being the spouse again to the person that they love. That’s a really important thing.”

Old Souls

Valerie Sanders cares for one elderly white woman who still calls her “colored,” but the African-American business owner says she’s not especially offended by the dated label.

“That’s just the way they were,” says Sanders, who runs the Ahwatukee-based in-home caregiver company The Neighbor Ladies—so named because her staff of caregivers live in the same communities they serve. “I know where she’s coming from, and I know she loves me to death. But it’s a generational thing.”

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Valerie Sanders (far left) runs the Ahwatukee-based in-home caregiver company The Neighbor Ladies. She is pictured here with Betty Jarrell, TNL client, and Killeen Cornish, TNL caregiver, at a client appreciation luncheon.

Sanders says some of her older white clients occasionally express surprise that she’s the company’s owner, as she still pulls shifts herself (“that keeps me very much in touch with my caregivers”). But she’s noticed they’re always very comfortable seeing her as “the help.”

“I think part of it might be that it’s a role that they’re familiar with people of color being in,” she notes.

Dealing with the last vestiges of non-PC language and attitudes can be an oft-overlooked job requirement for in-home caregivers. Sanders says many young people come unprepared for parsing the discriminatory baggage of the Greatest Generation, or even senior baby boomers.

“You can’t really just do this if you’re coming right out of high school,” she says. “The people who do best in this field tend to be a little older. We’ve all raised kids, some of us have grandkids. Some are retired nurses or teachers. But we still have a lot of love and nurturing that we want to give, so we pour that into our work.”

It also helps, she says, to have an appreciation for society’s elder members.

“You know how some people just gravitate toward older people? That’s me. Even when I was young, I would always enjoy being around my grandmother, and I would like listening to her and her friends. So a lot of times, we just like being around them. There is a lot of wisdom, for those who are still able to communicate. And even for those who have memory care issues, there’s still a sweetness and a sense of humor. They crack me up!”

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