When I was 10 years old, my grandpa moved into the house with us. He was still in pretty good health but was lonely living on his own after my grandma passed on. I loved having him around, and would run to say hello as soon as I came home from school. He would share a cookies and milk snack with me and would stay close while I did my homework, just in case I needed help.
Fast forward a few years, and suddenly I noticed how frail he was. Mom was kept busy helping him with simple tasks like getting dressed and serving meals. He started to use a walker and eventually stopped going outside altogether. He had a stroke when I was 15 and was left weak and partially paralyzed. He could barely talk but would still try to help me with homework and would always smile when I brought home a good grade.
I watched the devotion with which Mom cared for Grandpa and I filled in for her whenever I could. I watched over him when Mom wanted to go out for errands or just to breathe some fresh air. I helped spoon feed him and often just sat with him so he would have company.
When it came time to choose a career, caregiving seemed like the natural choice. I had already had plenty of experience and I knew how important it was to provide family members with peace of mind and a break from their hard work.
I’ve been a home health aide now for 5 years, and whenever I meet other home health aides I ask them how they chose this line of work. I am not surprised by how many of them tell me that they lived with an elderly relative as a child, that they saw their parents caring for their parents or that they themselves were part-time caregivers as teens.
I firmly believe that caregiving is a calling. Although we made a conscious decision to train as home health aides, in many ways this is a profession that chose us. We are drawn to the elderly, who remind of us of our own grandparents, and we have compassion on our patients’ family members, having witnessed the hardships that come with caring for an elderly person day in and day out.
I often wonder what other profession I could have chosen for myself. When I come home from a long day and put my feet up, I sometimes briefly dream of an office job where I could sit on a chair all day. But that doesn’t last long – I soon remember how much good I did that day, and I know that I could never be happy doing anything else.