Many of our seniors require in-home care, and providing a comfortable and dignified environment can be an arduous responsibility that requires an immense amount of patience. It takes a particular type of person to care for someone who is in his or her later chapters of life. For years, Debbie Moorefield, 65, has taken on the task of caring for the elderly with enthusiasm and compassion.
For the last 17 years, she has worked with Visiting Angels, a provider of in-home care. She’s cared for more than 225 seniors since 2003, working 12-hour shifts that have added up to a total of 45,000 hours. Often, she stays with a senior for several years following his or her diagnosis. Her dedication has earned her the organization’s title of “Caregiver of the Year.”
Dignity for Seniors
Moorefield cares for the elderly for years at a time and often up until their last day. But before being a caregiver, her role often begins as a companion. When her seniors do get to the point where they need constant care, she does everything she can to ensure that they are comfortable every day.
“We just transition from one level of caregiving to a more challenging and advanced form of caregiving,” Moorefield said.
Sometimes her clients are in immense pain, and her compassion and gentleness make all the difference. Her work also requires patience.
“Every patient is different. Some are appreciative. Some are not, but I somehow manage to earn their trust,” she said.
In one instance, Moorefield, who was caring for an elderly German woman, became locked out of the house. She yelled and tried to get the senior’s attention, sure that the senior would let her in. But her patient was suffering from vascular dementia and was unaware of her absence.
Moorefield had to get creative to get back inside. She got a ladder and went around the side of the house, climbed up, and cut a hole through a screen window before climbing in. Once she got inside, the elderly woman, not realizing that Moorefield had been locked out, asked her where she had been.
Moorefield took care of her until she passed away, giving her manicures and listening to Elvis with her.
“We’re there to meet every need that we’re humanly able to give them,” Moorefield said.
Care and Comfort
Moorefield hesitates to use the word “challenge,” but says that her biggest responsibility is making sure her clients are comfortable. She tries to alleviate their pressure sores, keep them hydrated, and create a pleasant atmosphere by playing music. When she finds out what they like to eat, she strives to accommodate them. She tries to anticipate their needs and is always looking for ways to assist her clients with their daily lives by performing tasks such as laundry, before she’s asked. She’s also hands-on and isn’t reluctant to physically move the seniors she works with when necessary.
“I’m just there to be a blessing, to give them quality of life as they’re making their journey,” Moorefield said.
Sometimes patients with dementia are confused and frightened, and will take out their emotions on Moorefield. Nevertheless, she maintains her patience despite being called nasty names or having a fist raised at her. Instead, she has the ability to redirect those emotions and adjust the senior’s train of thought.
She also strives to connect with her seniors on an emotional level. Moorefield asks them about themselves and their families, and she makes sure to communicate that she’s happy to be a part of their care.
“I’m pretty perceptive, and I’m such a people-person that it doesn’t take me long to figure out what makes them tick,” Moorefield said.
The pandemic has understandably impacted the way Moorefield conducts her work. She doesn’t bring up the topic in conversation because she doesn’t want to upset her seniors. However, when it is mentioned she makes sure to show the seniors she works with that she’s taking every precautionary measure to help them feel safe.
Moorefield has also learned valuable lessons from the many seniors she’s cared for, and she feels that her work has made her a better human being. Discovering the virtue of patience has been critical to her success with the elderly. She’s learned how to be empathetic, and knows that eventually, she may be in similar circumstances later on in life. So she strives to make them feel valued and works to build their self-esteem.
Moorefield’s faith is what drove her to provide end-of-life care for the elderly, and she has often been involved in senior ministries.
“I try to make them feel as special and beautiful as they are. They are God’s creations,” Moorefield said.
Mary Kay Brodnan, a manager at Visiting Angels, says that the most important qualities in a caregiver are compassion, reliability, flexibility, and initiative, which is why she nominated Moorefield for the organization’s “Caregiver of the Year” award. Brodnan described Moorefield as a “cross between the Energizer Bunny, Martha Stewart, and Mother Teresa,” and stressed how this combination of traits earned her the title this past fall.
“She has touched families’ lives,” Brodnan said.