Timmie McCune remembers being amazed at how her grandmother had everything set up to provide cancer care for McCune’s grandfather at home. McCune’s grandfather didn’t always meet that thoughtfulness with kindness, appearing ungrateful at times, but McCune often heard her grandmother say in response, “That’s not your grandfather talking, it’s the cancer.”
And McCune’s grandmother was right. McCune’s grandfather had been grateful to his wife; he felt dignified as his wife’s care allowed him to spend his last days at home. In his last words, he requested McCune to do the same thing for his wife when her turn came. That day came a decade later. When McCune’s grandmother showed signs of dementia and eventually relocated from Nebraska to Arizona, McCune moved in with her and tended for her until the end.
Family Caregiver Turned Pro
In the years that followed, McCune helped other ailing family members, including her uncle, who had Alzheimer’s, and her ex-husband’s parents before they passed. She slowly discovered her knack for caregiving from the experiences and was introduced to work as a private caregiver through a friend of her ex in-laws.
One of her early clients was a retired surgical nurse who commissioned McCune to care for the nurse’s mother who had Alzheimer’s. The retired nurse trained McCune on how to provide Alzheimer’s care properly. McCune gained valuable knowledge due to the assignment and later took a job at a memory care facility, Arbor Rose Senior Care.
Although McCune liked her job in the assisted living facility, she craved the personal connection that comes with one-on-one care. After exploring employment opportunities with a few home care agencies, McCune joined Right at Home as a Certified Nursing Assistant in the fall of 2017.
Sharing Life Experience With Other Family Caregivers
“I like in-home care,” McCune says. “I think people get the quality care they deserve through dedicated service.” Her passion and patience to improve the quality of life for those she serves did not go unnoticed. She was assigned to be the lead caregiver at Copper Springs Independent Living Community and was awarded Caregiver of the Month in May 2018.
To McCune, caregiving is more than “just a job.” She always spends time during the initial meet-and-greet to learn the preferences of her client. “You need a really good evaluation to know what you are getting into,” says McCune.
The knowledge of clients’ pasts allows McCune to engage with her clients, many of whom live with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, in daily activities and conversation. Understanding the likes and dislikes of each client enhances her proficiency at providing comprehensive care, especially when it comes to taking care of patients with chronic health conditions.
“The best thing you can do for an Alzheimer’s patient is to find out their likes and dislikes,” McCune explains. “Because if you do something they dislike, they’ll react negatively. To calm them down, you need to do what they like.”
But for family caregivers, things are more complicated. Patients may resist assistance or advice from their adult children and loved ones. McCune advises family caregivers to take a step back and reach out for help when dealing with challenging behaviors. She provides family caregivers another piece of advice — “Don’t take it personally. They (the patients) are not nice to you sometimes because you are there every day and they have known you all their lives. But when you introduce someone who’s not family, they respond differently.”