For eight years, Margie Tolson sold life insurance and went home every night feeling bored and unfulfilled. After having several conversations with an older woman who encouraged her to go back to school to become a caregiver, Margie finally took the leap. Granted a full scholarship, Margie studied hard and completed training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
In the 11 years since, Margie has never regretted the decision to care for those in need. “You need a lot of patience to be a caregiver, but it’s so rewarding, and I feel so blessed that I am able to serve people in this way,” says Margie. “I really love people, especially older people, who are so interesting and have so much to teach us.”
She joined Right at Home as a CNA in 2010 to provide in-home care and assistance to seniors and adults with disabilities in the Kingwood community of Texas.
Caregiving for Stroke and Aphasia Patient
Gary had a stroke a little over six years ago and continues to suffer from its debilitating side effects today. The stroke affected Gary’s right side, leaving him with aphasia (the inability to communicate) as well as near-paralysis, since he is unable to stand for more than a few seconds at a time. Margie provides care for Gary five days a week, working 12-hour shifts. Although Gary cannot speak, Margie has learned how to communicate with him.
“When Gary needs something, we go down a list of topics to figure out what he wants or needs,” says Margie. “It was a challenge at the beginning, but we have the routine down now. It’s a lot easier now to understand what he needs than it was when we first started working together.” Margie’s patience, care and kindness have helped forge a strong bond between the two of them.
“Even though Gary can’t speak, I know he’s a brilliant man,” says Margie. “I’ve learned so much from him.” Margie discovered that she and Gary share common interests, including a love of trains and birds, through the books he keeps in his home library. During their time together, Margie has been able to expand her knowledge in these areas thanks to Gary’s book collection.
“I really love what I do,” says Margie. “I’ve had many clients before Gary, and he is just the most pleasant man I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He’s really one in a million.”
Preparing the Elderly for Natural Disasters
With their strong bond, it should come as no surprise that as the Houston area began bracing itself for Hurricane Harvey, Margie volunteered to care for Gary round-the-clock if the storm were as bad as experts were predicting. On the morning that the storm hit, she packed a “just in case” overnight bag before leaving the house for work at Gary’s. She was grateful she had packed that bag, as she ended up spending about a week at Gary’s house after the storm hit.
“It was a little scary,” recalls Margie. “But my main thought was figuring out how to prepare for the worst—not for me, but for Gary. I coordinated with his son, Stephen, and made sure to double up on all of the supplies and products we would need in case of an emergency. And thank goodness I did!”
Although they had no contact with the outside world for the week, Margie and Gary watched the news in disbelief of how much water Houston was hit with. Thankfully, although the water covered the driveway and the property, it never came into the house. In addition, Gary has a generator, so even when the area lost power, Margie and her ward still had electricity.
“It was water for days!” exclaims Margie. “There was so much water—not sheets of water, but a blanket, for days. You couldn’t see a thing out the window. It was crazy.”
Heading Out After Hurricane Harvey
After about a week, Margie noticed that the water around the property had finally started to recede, so she decided to make the 20-minute drive back to her house. Although there was water along the sides of the road, she noticed that most of the debris had been cleared and she was able to make it home unscathed.
“I had no idea if I’d be coming home to find water in my house, but I am grateful because I came home and didn’t have any damage,” says Margie. “Someone was watching over me that week!”
Perhaps Margie’s luck can be attributed to all the good karma she has acquired in caring so thoughtfully for others for so many years.
*The name of the client has been changed to protect the client's privacy.