When Karen arrived for work one afternoon and was kicked out of the home of a memory care client in her care who didn’t seem to recognize her, she didn’t panic. Instead, Karen walked out the door and decided to improvise. She put her hair up in a ponytail and knocked on the door. Her client greeted her with a big smile and invited her to come in the house.
A little over two years ago, at the age of 21, Karen accepted a job with Right at Home of the South Hills and Washington County. During her tenure as a caregiver there, she has far exceeded the expectations of both her clients and her employers, remaining cool under pressure and always showing up for work with a smile on her face.
“Karen is naturally compassionate and empathetic,” says Susan Ashe, Director of Operations for Right at Home of the South Hills and Washington County. “She’s in it for the right reason—she wants to help others and, at the end of the day, she wants to make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Born and raised in a small rural town in the Midwest, Karen left home after graduating from high school to find better opportunities for her future. She ended up in Pittsburgh and applied to the Pittsburgh Jobs Corps, a federally funded jobs training program. Once accepted into the program, Karen received free training to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA).
Shortly after Karen completed her certification, Right at Home offered her a job, and she accepted without hesitation.
“I really like the personal aspect of being a home health aide,” says Karen. “Having one-on-one time with each client and being able to move at their pace is really nice. And the days when I receive a simple ‘thank you’ are so rewarding.”
Age Is Just a Number
When asked if she thinks whether or not her young age plays a role in her experience with clients, Karen doesn’t hesitate before responding with a definitive “no.” Although Karen is only 23, Susan describes her as an “old soul, and a very good listener.” Both Karen and Susan are big believers in home healthcare being an excellent career path for younger generations.
The various benefits of working as a home health caregiver include schedule flexibility, the ability to build your own workload, and the emotional reward of connecting to someone in need.
“When people my age find out what I do, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I could never do that; I could never help someone with hygienic needs,’ but that’s really not as much of a component of the job as you would think,” says Karen. “It’s more about making emotional connections and comforting family members who just want to know that someone they trust is with their parent.”
Above and Beyond
Although she does not have a car and takes public transportation to see clients, Karen is never late to appointments. She has quickly become one of the most reliable caregivers for Right at Home of the South Hills and Washington County, and Susan cites Karen’s unbelievable work ethic and easy-going attitude as components of her success.
A little over a year ago, Right at Home of the South Hills and Washington County implemented a caregiver incentive program called the “RAH Home Run Club.” Whenever an employee does something extraordinary, they get a “base.” After four bases, they’ve completed a “home run” and win a $10 gift card as a reward.
Karen already has achieved 12 home runs, leading the pack. To put in perspective how truly remarkable that is, the caregiver in second place has five home runs.
Looking to the Future
While Karen doesn’t have any grand plans for the future, she is really enjoying her current situation. And it seems like she’s ahead of the curve when it comes to investing time and effort into a career in caregiving, especially with the looming caregiver crisis.
Karen has managed to fall in love with a career that has promising long-term benefits, including job security and the flexibility of taking on as much, or as little, work as your personal life allows. It’s the perfect career choice for anyone who needs more work-life balance and loves connecting with and caring for others.
“Caregiving can be emotionally strenuous sometimes, but also really rewarding,” says Karen. “Being a caregiver is not job, it’s a career. You never have to worry about being replaced by a machine and you get to make people happy on a regular basis.”
Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. She currently blogs for HuffPost50, Fifty Is The New Fifty and Medical Guardian. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.