JoJean Homme is one of Midwest Home Care’s care coordinators, an exceptionally demanding job, as it requires coordinating clients’ needs, caregiver schedules and availability, and, sometimes, taking over for caregivers who can’t make it their scheduled shift. Every day, I watch JoJean and the other coordinators through the window of my office while they juggle phone calls and minor crises, share stories, give updates, and rocket out the door, client files piled high in their arms, as they set off on their rounds to make sure everything is five-by-five out in the field.
It’s Women’s History month, and I want to showcase the incredible women at Midwest and beyond who promote and provide care. When I announced to the office that I wanted to do a series of interviews with some of our administrative staff on their experiences in caregiving, JoJean was the first to volunteer. I fiddled around with an audio recording app on my phone and told her to come in whenever she was ready.
Jes Richards: Can you just talk a little bit about your background and how you got into caregiving?
JoJean Homme: I started at some independent living homes and facilities as just, like, a cook, and then I saw that they needed more help with care. That interested me, and I liked the people that I was around and wanted to help out more.
JR: So, you didn’t have prior skills?
JH: No, I just jumped right in.
JR: When challenges arise in caregiving, especially early on, when things were awkward or weird or difficult, how did you deal with that?
JH: Actually…the lady who trained me on everything,–she was my boss–was actually really good and showed me and trained me and took me aside to each client and showed me what I had to do. Some things I just got thrown into and I had to learn.
JR: It sounds like that’s kind of the thing about caregiving is that you get sort of, tossed into the lion’s den. What brought you to become a cook at a facility?
JH: I started as a dishwasher…needed to get back on my feet and get into the world after leaving the VA hospital. I just really enjoy helping people, so when I’d see the people I was cooking for or serving food to, and they’d say, “JoJean, we really wanna see you more,” I interacted with them, and it felt good to know that I was helping and that I cared.
JR: What lessons have you taken from caregiving and put into your own life?
JH: Knowing to have more patience. You have to have it no matter what. Just like with my kids, I know they’re just kids, so I have to have more patience with them, just like some adults. That’s probably the biggest thing, and caring, which is something I teach my kids.
JR: How do you approach caregiving now as opposed to when you started?
JH: With more care than when I first started. When I first got into it, I was like, I can’t change diapers or wipe people, but now, I’m willing to do a lot more because I know they need care. I can tell when people are sad or want companionship, and when [I] can give them what they need, it’s the best feeling to know they know someone cares for them. When I know someone is excited that hey, JoJean is coming back tomorrow, it makes my day, just to be able to know they care, too.
JR: What would you like to see change in the care industry?
JH: I would like people to know that it’s not just a paycheck, that you should come into this with a heart and with caring and make sure that it’s something you really want to do because it’s not just a job.
JR: Is there any particular story that shaped your caregiving experience?
JH: I had a lady, before I came to Midwest, that I kinda got thrown into, and she required a Hoyer lift, which I didn’t know how to do when I started, and would hit me all the time. But then, I ended up becoming her favorite caregiver. So, I think that’s where I really got the most appreciation, because I didn’t know what I was doing, I was there by myself, but she was really encouraging, telling me she had faith in me, even when she was hitting me constantly. Like, how can you tell me that you have faith in me but keep hitting me at the same time? But I ended up her favorite. When she passed away, I had seen her just the night before, and it felt like she was waiting for me to say goodbye before she passed.
And you would think that she hated me, hitting me all the time, but she was in a lot of pain and that was how she communicated. That’s kinda what made me open up, like, knowing that no matter how mean they are—and I think that’s why I got assigned a lot of the mental health cases because I care no matter what. At the end of the day, I don’t care how mean you are, I’ll come back the next day and we’ll try again.
You have to show them that, hey, I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.
Midwest Home Care employs experts in the field of caregiving, including dementia and Parkinson’s care specialists. If you would like to learn more about Midwest Home Care’s services, contact us at email@example.com.