A Caregiver Who Became Like Family

September 30, 2018
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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When Charles H. was diagnosed with dementia, his wife took on the full-time caregiver duties. She did so for 15 years with dedication and loving care. However, after he underwent surgery, she realized she would need help. This is when Terri Parham, from Care Options for Kids, came in.

“I’ve been a caregiver for about 18 years, three of them with Care Options for Kids,” she explains. When asked why she chose this career, she doesn’t hesitate: “That’s what I love to do; take care of people.” This isn’t just an empty statement. Charles’s wife, Mrs. H. can vouch for that.

“Terri is like a daughter to us. She’s our children’s age, and she really is like a daughter.”

A typical day caring for Charles involves preparing his breakfast, bathing him, and keeping him company throughout the day. “If he has to use the bathroom, I wash him and clean him up. He has a catheter, so I have to give him water every five to ten minutes. I also take him to doctors appointments, acquire all the information, and bring it back to Mrs. H. when she can’t come along.”

She also has fun with him. “We play card games and watch movies together. He loves that! He also tells me funny stories. He’s a funny guy!” she laughs.

They used to go out for fried chicken and go fishing when his health allowed it. The patient/caregiver dynamic has been very natural. They’ve gotten along so well since day one.

Although she works a day shift, she sometimes stays overnight when Mrs. H. has to go out of town. Terri is also often included in family events. As Mrs. H. explains: “Sometimes the kids come here and we all sit outside and have a barbecue, and she’ll be there because we consider her to be a part of our family.”

For Mrs. H., Terri’s presence has become essential. “In addition to helping me care for my husband, having Terri here allows me to take it easy, or go out and run errands. It’s been very good for both of us.”

Mrs. H. has plenty of nice things to say about the arrangement: “I worked for 30 years hiring people. When I first met Terri, I realized very quickly that she’s very intelligent. Also, she has the skills and the ability to work through the issues. This is a very difficult job. He’s a big guy. He’s 6’6. There will be good days and bad days. It’s very emotional, and she knows how to handle it.”

“There are times when Terri and I are tired, and she’ll tell me: ‘We can do it.’ She never gives up. She’s most dependable, and she has the highest work ethic of anyone I’ve ever worked with. Terri is very caring and Charles  really loves her.”