When he came for an interview to be one of my caregivers, I wasn’t sure it was going to work out. He was a little rough around the edges, and his answers to my questions weren’t ones that I typically hear from candidates. Even so, I was impressed that he had been an airborne medic in the Army for seven years. I needed a good caregiver and I thought that he deserved a shot at the job. Hiring Matt turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
We were a little wary of each other at first. Given the personal nature of this job, I always feel kind of vulnerable when people start working. But Matt did all he could to put me at ease from the beginning. He not only learned my routine very quickly, but my preferences as well, and he has never forgotten them. He always takes initiative to get things done, but he let me know at the start in both his words and his actions that he was going to take direction from me. “I’m planning on sweeping the floor now unless there is something else you would rather have me do.” is an example of a statement that I usually hear from Matt when he works a shift.
As we got more comfortable with each other, Matt began to check in with me about my day and what kinds of things I was thinking. If I told him I’d had an experience that was less than stellar, he would remind me we were in my house and that I was free to express any emotion that I was feeling in any way that I needed to. He assured me on numerous occasions it was safe to do that on his watch. Over time, I would ask his opinions or seek his advice, and he would give me sincere and helpful feedback. I have had the privilege of doing the same thing for him.
We are on opposite sides of the spectrum on almost everything, from religion to politics to what tv shows are funny to the best ways to lose weight. But even when Matt and I are disagreeing about something, he has never made me feel wrong for what I believe or that my thinking is flawed in any way. In fact, I have rarely felt more consistently respected by anyone. That is a big statement. It couldn’t be more true.
In addition, I have witnessed Matt advocating for me in ways that he doesn’t think are a big deal. When someone told him that he was “going to get his reward in Heaven for all that he does for me” his response didn’t miss a beat. He simply replied: “Who said I was going to Heaven?”
When an employee at Lawrence Memorial Hospital tried to talk to him in an effort to get information about me instead of talking to me directly, he reminded that employee that I was right in front of him. Matt did so three or four times in the same conversation.
There has been a whole lot of loss in my life lately. A case manager that I really clicked with had his position eliminated due to budget cuts. A beloved doctor on my healthcare team recently retired. Various caregivers have quit unexpectedly because of family issues and other opportunities. Through it all, Matt always shows up, even when he is the only one on payroll, and working for me means working two shifts per day. He has been with me in the trenches of my life for more than a year now, almost every day. Even when he was deployed earlier this summer as part of the National Guard, he would text me often to make sure I was doing okay.
Matt starts nursing school this week.
I have written extensively about how I tend to get more attached to caregivers than they do to me. When our working together comes to an end, I usually don’t see people who have worked for me ever again. There are rare occasions when I am lucky and former caregivers become my friends. In this case, Matt has become my family.
Matt has assured me that he will be around as much as he can. He only gave me permission to write this post if I wrote it with the understanding that this is not the end of our relationship. He has promised that he will stop by and say hello and he has offered to train new caregivers once I get them hired and all their paperwork comes back. Technically his last shift is tonight. Chances are that I will see him next week.
Even so, I am taking this transition incredibly hard. I miss him already.
Thank you for all you do in my life, Matt, and the hundreds of sacrifices that you have made to ensure my well being. I have worked with over 500 caregivers in the last 35 years. But if I had to create the perfect caregiver, he would be just like you!