Caregiver Spotlight: Andrew, H.H.A.

Caregivers at Hakuna have a variety of backgrounds, interests, and personalities. We love getting to know them and working together to help our clients and their families.  For our newsletter this month, we interviewed Andrew, who is originally from Brooklyn.  Read on for the full interview.

Hakuna: What do you like about being a home health aide?

Andrew: I like the connection I make one on one with the clients and the bonding relationship that occurs. In my experience working as a nurse’s aid, I had 10 or 11 patients and that bonding could never happen. That is probably the number one thing I like about being a home health aide. Another thing I like is helping elderly people at their most vulnerable times when they may not have others around to help them. That makes me feel really good.

H: How did you become interested in being a home health aide?

A: Well, I was a nurse’s aide for about 10 years in a hospital as part of a very fast paced cardiac unit. I was in between jobs and my friend was a nurse; he kept pushing me to get a job as a nurse’s aide. Surprisingly, I liked it. I liked taking care of other people. That was something I never thought I had in me. When I moved back to New York in 2012, I knew I wanted to do something with healthcare and in the meantime, further my education. I can never go back to the days of having 10 or 11 patients; it's just not for me anymore. So, I decided I could give the most I could give on a one to one basis, and that’s what I wanted to do. Having one client makes it easy to go the extra mile.

H: What advice would you give to a new home health aide, from your experiences so far?

A: Listen to the client-- REALLY listen to them. If the client is saying he or she is too cold or too warm, really investigate and see: is it just 90 degrees in there? Or, is there something else going on that I need to be paying attention to? Another thing I’ve learned is knowing when to separate myself from the job after I leave. I get so involved and attached, but there are other caregivers, nurses, family members; I am not the only one who is taking care of the client.

H: What is one of your best memories as a home health aide?

A: There was one time that I took care of a married couple. They were both survivors of the Holocaust; they met at a concentration camp. They were very religious. Every Friday night, it was a big deal to light the Shabbat candles. I was privileged to serve them, light the candles, and I even escorted the husband every Friday night to the synagogue for services. He was so feeble, but he managed to walk the block and a half every Friday. I’ll never forget his determination. He couldn’t follow the prayer because he had dementia but some of the older men would help him find his place which was amazing to me. I think being exposed to this couple with such rich history and being able to help them and being able to see part of their culture, the whole thing was a very beautiful experience.

H: What would you say is the biggest challenge in working with elderly people?

A: I think it is seeing how little care or assistance they have gotten sometimes. Being a caregiver, I have to fill that gap, but sometimes I feel like it shouldn’t be that way. When I see an elderly person not being taken care of, that’s the hardest part of the job.

H: So would you consider yourself a superhero of some sort?

A: [Laughs] No, I wouldn’t say superhero, although in this work there have certainly been times when I saved the day.

H: What are your future aspirations?

A: Right now, I am completing my Associate's degree at LaGuardia Community College for their mental health program and from there, I want to continue my education and become a social worker.

H: So we heard one of your hobbies is knitting…

A: Yup! Love to knit.

H: Do you have any other hobbies you'd like to share?

A: I am a creative writer; I love to write creatively. I am also getting into making beaded jewelry. Which is kind of an extension of knitting in a way, but I have a ton of beads and I am taking classes right now.

H: Last question-- as a long time New Yorker, what’s your favorite place in the city?

A: I have three: Walking across the Manhattan Bridge, the High Line when its not filled with tourists, and the West Side Highway Piers.