During an 18-month period in the mid-90s, Arleen DeNutte and her husband lost all four of their parents. Together, with the help of other family members, they became loving caregivers for each parent during their final illnesses, one after the other. None of the experiences was easy. In fact, Arleen says they often felt overwhelmed, “but we were able to fulfill their wishes to stay home and I’ll always be grateful we could do it. I have memories I’ll never let go of.”
Now, Arleen is putting all the lessons she learned 20 years ago to good use in her job as a caregiver for Advantage Home Care. Rich Blumenthal, who founded Advantage, and is its president, recalls when he first met Arleen. “She was one of the first people I hired about four years ago,” he says. “I still remember the interview. I was impressed with her kindness, her maturity, and the sense that she held herself to a high standard with whatever she did.”
Arleen was impressed with Rich as well, and when he offered her the job she didn’t hesitate. “I decided I would give Advantage Home Care a go and, my goodness, I could not see working for a nicer person. Rich is the best boss I’ve ever had in my entire life. He does everything he can to help out his employees as well as his clients.”
She was also impressed and a bit taken aback by the thoroughness of his background check. “He was one of the first employers that I have ever had who checked out every single reference I gave him,” says Arleen. “I was amazed. Years ago I worked for a company where I had to go through top security clearance because we did a lot of government work. I don’t think anyone was interviewed nearly as much as Rich interviewed people about me! I’m actually glad to see that he did it that way, because when he puts a caregiver in each person’s house he has to pretty much guarantee that that caregiver is going to be on top of things and is reliable and trustworthy.”
Arleen’s primary role is to help care for elderly people who can’t live independently any more. Each client has different needs — someone to prepare meals, clean house, do laundry, do errands, or just sit and chat.
She takes one of her clients to exercise class on one day and water aerobics another. As an added bonus, Arleen takes the classes right along with the client. “I also take her to get her car registered or to her doctor’s or to get lab work done. I went to the theater in Brunswick with another client, which was nice. Some of my clients are more homebound and it’s companionship that they want. I have one little lady who loves to gossip, so I have to be careful what I say!”
Not everybody could be a caregiver. It’s hard, hard work, whether you are a family member or getting paid to do it. Arleen knew from her personal experiences that it would be challenging, but extremely rewarding. “I absolutely love talking with the elderly,” she explains. “I think their stories of the past and the life they lived and what you learn from them is very interesting.”
The people she cares for and their families are also very grateful, which makes Arleen feel grateful, too. For example, “One of my clients loves the beach. She can’t get out and walk in the sand, but we spent an hour riding along the seacoast and then parked. She just loved looking at the waves come in. It’s those little things that they’re so appreciative of. It doesn’t take too much to please them.”
Rich says his initial impressions and instincts about Arleen proved correct. “She has been willing to acquire new skills and help out by taking additional shifts on short notice, and she is a very dedicated caregiver, who cares deeply about her clients.”
Arleen believes the most important trait a caregiver needs is compassion. “Be as compassionate as you can. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if all your independence had been taken away? Bring a few moments of joy to their life.”
To learn more about being a caregiver for Advantage Home care, go to Employment Opportunities.
If you like to learn more about us, please visit Our Caregivers.