When a Tough Client Becomes Like Family

January 25, 2019
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Two years ago, Care Options for Kids caregiver Enail Norame started taking care of J.M., an Alzheimer’s patient in his 90s. “Everyone told me he was a difficult person,” Norame remembers. Still, he decided to take on the challenge.

He recounts that J.M. usually doesn’t get along with people, but Norame always looks for ways to be on his good side. “If he tells me that he doesn’t want to take a shower, I don’t argue with him. I say: ‘Ok, you don’t have to’. I then ask him again in 15 or 20 minutes, when I know he’s forgotten about it. I tell him that taking a shower will make him smell good. Eventually, he agrees.”

Despite what, from the surface, may have looked like a complicated assignment, it has turned into a beautiful friendship. “Even though he forgets things, there are others that he always remembers,” explains Norame. “I’m going to school to become a Physical Therapy Assistant, and he always asks me: How’s school? How are your grades? When are you graduating? He says he wants to be at my graduation. He always tells me to work hard. He says he wants me to be the best. He’s like a dad. I love him.”

Norame helps J.M. with his activities of daily living, such as getting out of bed, personal hygiene, eating meals, and taking him to doctor’s appointments. Sometimes, when a family member tries to get him out of bed, J.M. will say: “My friend is coming. You don’t have to worry about me,” making reference to Norame.

They also sometimes go out to restaurants. J.M’s family will leave a restaurant gift card for them to get lunch. Other times, they stay in and watch football or hockey. “He loves watching hockey games because he used to play hockey.”

Norame and J.M. get along so well, that his caregiver has gotten emotional when J.M. is not feeling his best. “One time he told me: ‘We have been friends for a long time, but I’m not feeling well. You’re losing a friend. I’m not feeling ok.’ It made me cry.”

Being a caregiver is more than a job to Norame. “I really enjoy working with him. I call him Superman and he likes that. I call him that whenever he says he can’t get out of bed. ‘Alright, Superman. Just stay in bed, take a nap, and then you’ll be good.’ I do that to encourage him. He’ll take a nap, then get up in a better mood. I go: “Who’s Superman?” And he says: “I’m Superman!”

“I like to work with people. I like to provide them with good care. I give more than 100% because this is life. This is not only about a paycheck. You need money to live, to pay bills, and do other things, but you have to work from your heart.”