When 18-year-old Berlin Romero became a caregiver for Right at Home Northwest Orange County, California, in March 2016, she never could have imagined she would someday face caring for seniors through a pandemic. Early in her career, she lacked experience, but she had the innate qualities required to be a great caregiver and was willing to learn as much as she could.
“The thing that motivated me the most to become a caregiver is that it’s a very rewarding job—to be able to help others with anything that might be difficult for them and feel the gratitude they have toward you when you are able to help,” Berlin said.
The staff at Right at Home Northwest Orange County immediately saw the potential in Berlin.
“We can teach anyone a skill set, but we can’t teach someone to care,” said Kylene Garcia, Director of Quality Care at Right at Home Northwest Orange County. “Berlin is a gleaming example of what this means. She is such an asset to our team that we taught her some skills along the way, and she absorbed them like a sponge. Our office was offered a few scholarships to attend a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course, and Berlin was the first person we offered the scholarship to. The course benefited not only Berlin, but also the teammates whom she works with. Berlin is a team player, and if she knows of an easier, safer or kinder way to accomplish something, she will show others.”
Berlin’s kindness and ability to put others at ease from the start have given families peace of mind and quite literally opened doors for Right at Home. Grace Atwood, owner of Right at Home Northwest Orange County, recounted an occasion when a family caregiver was reluctant to accept help from outside her family.
“The new client I was introducing to Berlin had been bedridden for many years, and his wife was his main caregiver since the start of his illness,” said Grace. “The wife’s sister had just died, and the wife thought she would miss the funeral because all of her family members would be attending it, so there was no one she trusted to care for her husband. When Berlin and I arrived at their home, the day of the funeral, the client’s daughter opened the door and whispered to us that her mom wasn’t even dressed to go out because she had her mind made up to turn us away and stay with her husband. Berlin looked up and saw the wife peeking out at us from the front door. They smiled at each other, and as a result, we were invited into the home. Berlin saw the client lying in his hospital bed in the living room and went immediately to his side. He reached out his hand to her, and she held his hand. After his wife saw this interaction, she told her daughter, ‘Wait for me, I’m going to my sister’s funeral!’”
“Cautious but Fearless”
Recently, Berlin was named Right at Home’s West Region Caregiver of the Year. ”It is fitting that Berlin is recognized as this year’s West Region Caregiver of the year,” Grace said. “She demonstrates why in-home care is essential every day.”
“Berlin is cautious but fearless,” Kylene said. “When the pandemic first started and there was so much uncertainty, she was the first person who volunteered to work with a COVID-19-positive patient. Berlin knew this woman needed help, so without question she donned up and went in.”
When clients who required 24-hour care contracted COVID-19, caregivers had to be quarantined and many of the families struggled to find care.
“When one of our clients and her loved ones struggled to find alternative care as they faced one of the most difficult moments in their lives, Berlin informed us that she was prepared to provide care with the proper training and personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Carlos Castro, Compliance Officer, Right at Home Northwest Orange County. “Following the guidance of several government agencies and with the assistance of the greater Right at Home community, we provided Berlin with all the necessary training and PPE to undergo this incredible challenge. Without Berlin’s courage and eagerness to help our clients, I don’t know what we would’ve done.”
“I didn’t have to think twice if I wanted to take care of a client with COVID-19,” Berlin said. “The training I received from Right at Home prepared me to help any client no matter their condition. The office staff made sure I had the proper training and met up with me before entering a home to make sure all my questions were answered. They also made sure I had enough equipment and proper PPE to be able to care for a client with COVID-19. ”
With her willingness to help in any situation, Berlin is described as a gem and a team player who has experienced a lot in her career as a caregiver.
“The thing about Berlin is that she walks into the good, the bad and the ugly, but treats every client the same, with grace, patience and respect,” Kylene said. “Although Berlin is young, she already has experienced what some medical professionals have experienced their entire career. She has cared for the combative, actively dying, wandering, aggressive, pain-ridden and depressed. Mother Teresa put it best: ‘Do small things with great love,’ and that is what Berlin does every single day.”