Matchmaking for a caretaker
August 29, 2006
For the last years of my mother’s long life, she was tenderly cared for by a British-born Jamaican lady, Carol Lewis, whom all of us, especially my mother, adored.Making a nasty commute from East Orange, N.J., by bus and train, Carol worked 24-hours a day, five days a week for five years, never missing a day, and was a welcome burst of sunshine after the competent but unadored weekend worker.So it came as a shock when she recently called to say she is not getting enough work from “the agency” to make ends meet. This treasure – this angel – not enough work?We found her through an earlier Jamaican caretaker, who knew that Carol’s last patient had just died – an elderly woman impaired by a stroke. That was a several-year job she worked 24/7.Agencies cost almost as much as nursing homes, and the caretaker gets only a fraction of that, so the optimal option is to hire direct. We were lucky to find Carol by word of mouth because the hard part is getting the patient and the caretaker together – there should be a website like the dating services.So if you have an infirm or aging friend or relative or friend-of-a-friend, someone who lives within striking distance of East Orange, someone who is unhappily on the sill of The Home and there doesn’t seem to be any alternative, here’s your chance in a million.Carol is 42. She is strong, robust, smart, tactful, immaculate, compassionate, certified and professional in her caregiving duties, funny, a great cook (a talent wasted on my mother’s diet of Ensure), caring and, above all, joyful. My mother’s house would ring with her laughter and my mother would laugh with her. They were buddies. They loved each other.My mother was very deaf and spoke with a southern accent; Carol’s speech was laced with Jamaican patois mixed with a British accent. I’d go to visit and they’d act as each other’s translator: Carol explaining to my mother what I said and my mother explaining to me what Carol said.When my mother was still able to be wheeled about in a wheelchair, Carol took her out every day to look at her flowers, down to the mailbox, and around the house to pick out books to read. She picked bouquets to brighten my mother’s room, coaxed her to take her pills, drink the boring Ensure and always made sure that her water and ginger ale glasses were full.As my mother declined until she was completely helpless, Carol stepped further and further up to the plate when others would have bailed. She was adept at oxygen maintenance, catheters and diaper changing, meticulous at making the bed and fluffing the pillows, thoughtful for every comfort, patient with spills, and held her hand when she was feeling anxious.I wrote in my letter of recommendation, “I am not a gusher by nature but, when it comes to Carol, I cannot say enough about this very remarkable woman.”And P.S., she’s legal!Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call me at work or home (I’m in the book) if you have any matchmaking ideas.Su Lum is a longtime local who knows that someone out there is looking for Carol. This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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