caregiverPerlita Quinones has nine siblings, all of whom emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines. Fortunately, Perlita is a patient person because, despite being sponsored by her sister, it took 24 years from the time she applied for her U.S. visa to when she was allowed to emigrate. She was the last of her siblings to arrive and has been in Washington since 2012.

Perlita calls herself an “accidental caregiver.” She has a background in business and marketing but knew that once in the U.S. it would be difficult to pursue this career path. A friend was working in an adult family home and suggested that Perlita could be of help with a resident with a mental illness. This was a difficult client and no caregiver had been willing to work with her more than a few days. Perlita quickly earned her Home Health Aid license and went to work. And to the staff and family’s surprise, the client took to Perlita. After that, there was no more turnover.

“Being a caregiver started out as a job,” said Perlita, “but after a few years it became a calling and a mission.” Perlita joined Family Resource Home Care with great anticipation just one year ago. She had asked a nurse practitioner and hospice nurse what home care agency social workers rave about. “This nurse immediately said Family Resource Home Care,” said Perlita. “When the time was right I applied for a job and I am so happy that I did. The other agencies that I worked for were all good, but Family Resource is the best. They have an excellent support system. I just feel at home at Family Resource.”

One of Perlita’s long-term clients with whom she had a special connection passed away 3 weeks ago. “She was a darling,” says Perlita. “I believe that a caregiver’s job is to treat each client according to their needs, preferences, and desires. This client was Catholic and wanted to pray the rosary. Every time I came to her we prayed the rosary together. That I could make her so happy was a great achievement for me. I know that at the end of her life her spiritual needs were being fulfilled.”

Another of Perlita’s clients had been a journalist at the NY Times. After her eyesight diminished she could no longer read. “I understood that reading was important to her, so I asked her if she would like me to read to her. She was so happy and now I save an hour at the end of every shift when I read to her – usually books or poetry,” said Perlita.

Thinking about what makes a good caregiver, Perlita says that “caregivers must build trust before anything else. Trust will help them become comfortable with you,” she says. And to do that “you must be real and be yourself. Of course, being calm, patient and compassionate is also important. When you feel compassion for your client in your heart, soul, and spirit it creates an energy. Your client will feel it.”

“Sometimes when I am driving to a shift I can feel the monotony of what we do. But when that happens I look at the beauty in front of me and feel gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote for monotony,” she says.