Let’s hear it for the home health aides

Paula bursts into my parents’ house like a ray of sunshine. She’s full of energy and optimism and greets my mom and dad with a bright smile. My dad, who is a man of very few words these days says, “How are you to day?” A regular monolog for him.

Paula started helping my parents as a home health aide about nine months ago. She started by coming two mornings a week to help my dad with his showers and to help my mom with the extra laundry and sheet changing as a result of my dad’s Alzheimer’s and incontinence issues. At first Mom didn’t want to have a home health aide there every day. After two weeks, Paula was coming five days a week, every weekday.

Paula knows how to do everything for my dad now. She pitches in and gets him up out of bed if he hasn’t risen by the time she arrives. She helps him into the shower and monitors him while he’s there. She cleans up any accidents he has or messes he makes in the meantime. She helps him change his protective undergarments, helps him dress, transfers him from his walker to his wheelchair. Pushes him to wherever he wants to sit inside the house. Sometimes she prepares his breakfast and sits with him while he eats. Meanwhile she usually has a load or two of laundry going. Sometimes she does small household cleaning chores like vacuuming the carpet or mopping the floor.

It’s a physically challenging and dirty job at times.

But Paula keeps her sense of humor and her smile in place. She treats my dad with sensitivity and compassion and extends support to my mother who often struggles with her caregiver responsibilities.

I’ve watched Paula with my dad and I believe she genuinely cares about him. She seems amused by him at times in an affectionate, non-patronizing way. She’s respectful of his wishes and treats him as an adult, even though often he is silent in return.

There’s no question that Paula is a significant help to my mother just from a purely physical stand-point. But what has surprised me is how much more than that she is.

When Paula’s there, my mom can rest. Mom often lies on the sofa and puts down her responsibility for my dad for a few hours because she knows Paula will carry it for a while.

When Paula’s there, my mom seems more relaxed. If something unexpected happens she has confidence Paula will know what to do. When we were still taking Dad out to see his doctor, Mom started scheduling the appointments for when Paula could accompany them.

When Paula’s there the whole energy of the household shifts into something much more positive, much more optimistic.

When Paula’s there I feel like we might just be able to get through this.

Even with all of that said, the most amazing thing about Paula is that she has chosen to be part of my parents’ lives for this time. I mean, let’s face it. Alzheimer’s is a heinous slow march downhill to oblivion. We are on the path of a final goodbye with many small endings along the way. Frankly, sometimes I’d like to run as fast and hard as I can in the opposite direction. If I didn’t love these two individuals I call my parents, I’m not sure I’d choose to be involved in their lives. Paula did.

Paula understands the way this gig is going to end. And she chooses to be here anyway. That’s really saying something.

So I’d just like to raise a glass to Paula and to all those other home health aides in the world who truly make a difference in the lives of others.


Paula takes Dad for a walk. August 19, 2011

36 thoughts on “Let’s hear it for the home health aides”

  1. I remember you relating some disappointment with your book. This topic and your insights would be of value to hundreds of thousands of families and it would seem there would be dozens of entities willing to publish because there would be a great demand. They have them for cancer and autism and children’s illnesses too. Family coping strategies.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Carl. I will keep it in mind. Right now I am still trying to finish my memoir project and get it launched. Then I have recently started a new project that I am interested in and will tell you more about later.

  2. I love this and I love the Paula’s of the world!!! We were blessed with some wonderful home health aides and I agree–they are priceless!!! It allows the caregiver time to ger out for a couple hours and do some “normal” stuff without worrying about leaving their loved one. I think your Paula is an angel!!! Glad you found her!

    1. She is a blessing. And my parents had the foresight to purchase long-term care insurance years ago, which makes this affordable, at least for a while.

  3. Cheers to Paula! I wish my Mom could take lessons from your Mom. While she has home care givers come, she still will not let go of the reins. So they come and sit with my Dad, and (even though they want to) are not allowed to help out in any other ways around the house. My Mom just retired, perhaps that will change. But my guess is she will simply shoulder all the responsibility and complain about it forever. That’s no way for either of them to live. Sigh.

  4. OORAH! From this RN to all and for all Home Health Aides and Certified Nursing Assistants, and Hospice Nursing Assistants. They are the backbone and the “eyes and ears” for every nurse. OORAH!

  5. Christine, What a wonderful tribute to home health aides. This is what we in the home care business strive for. The Paula’s of the world are truly the angels here on Earth. I am so glad she is there for your family. May I share this story with some folks in the business? Judy

  6. Hi Chris .. you are so lucky with your Paula … she sounds just the way you’ve described her – caring, loving and just relishing her time with your parents. That relief of having another sensible ‘family’ person around just obviously makes so much difference to your mother – and you and the rest of the family.

    Old age is difficult at the best of times .. so pleased you have someone so loving and caring around .. love the picture .. my best to your parents, Paula and you all .. cheers Hilary

  7. Everyone going through those types of situations and home readjustments due to health issues needs a “Paula”. So glad your family has her to help them through these difficulties, and wonderful of you to see how much her compassion helps them.

  8. That’s my daughter and I’ve always been proud of her, but this endeavor has proven, what I have known all along, what a very caring, and loving person she is to everyone she encounters.

    I Love you,

  9. Paula’s a saint…without a doubt. Her job description is more than many of us, family included, would be able to shoulder. And yet she does, with a smile. For one as young as she looks, Paula is already a wisened, old soul full of compassion and positive energy. A unique individual in a world fast becoming a cesspool of negativity. But there are so many like her who, in their own way, are making a difference…

    yourself included, christine…hugs…hugmamma. πŸ˜‰

  10. Excellent post and yes Lets hear it for Home Aides,,, They do a wonderful job.. And you have paid a beautiful tribute here to Paula…..

    Working among those who have Disabilities as in Learning difficulties myself.. as a support worker, I know how constant caring by family members can drain and deplete their quality time with their loved ones.. It is so nice to hear that your Mum can relax and know your Dad is in safe hands which also means your Mum gets her healing time too. So Paula is doing a two fold job….
    Cheers Paula!!.. and Another well written post Christine.. πŸ™‚

  11. What a blessing Paula is! Last summer, when my husband’s grandfather passed away, the hospice nurse stayed and prepared him for burial. It was more than a job to her; she was so tender and loving it brought tears to my eyes. Thank the Lord for good-hearted people!


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