November 17, 2015

Caregiving Enriches Caregiver, Leads to Rewarding Career

Nov. 17, 2015 | Long lives can radiate wisdom and even joy. Home caregiver Sue Carter, of Elkins, knows an invisible benefit of her chosen occupation is being able to bask in that radiant warmth.


Sue Carter talks about caregiving during an interview in 2014.

Sue has been caring for and learning from older adults for more than 15 years. In the 1990s, at the urging of a friend, she became employed as a home caregiver. She cooked, she changed sheets and did the everyday things older and disabled people no longer could do for themselves. No formal training was available at that time, but Sue was able to learn some life lessons in the course of caring for others.

“It was amazing the life journeys the people I cared for had been on,” she said. “They were able to share that, and I gained a lot of information I would not have learned otherwise. I saw a lot of faith. I saw strength and endurance. I’ve written notes to families about how much their loved one enriched my life.”

After noticing Sue’s passion for caregiving, a relative who knew firsthand the impact and benefits training can have for caregivers and for those they serve encouraged her to take part in classes at the UAMS Schmieding Center in Springdale.

The Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program there gave Sue the tools to provide even better care for her clients. The program educates individuals, whether family or paid caregivers, to care for older adults in the home.

Sue said she learned a lot from the courses, things that many people don’t realize are significant in caring for clients with dementia. Especially helpful was learning how to help them move safely from the bed to a wheelchair and back.

In addition to clients, she has used her training in caring for members of her own family, including her mother.

Her sister also has completed courses in the Schmieding program. Both of them have recognized what a difference it has made, especially after seeing cousins in other states who struggle to care for aging members of their extended family. They wrestle with caregiving tasks that Carter and her sister know could be easier for them if they were able to benefit from training. Although the program is being copied outside of Arkansas, many areas don’t have anything comparable.

“I’ve seen family members — aunts, cousins — and people for whom I’ve worked outside the family, be able to age in place,” Carter said. “That’s been the goal for the people we care for and for the families. In the home, they can have that loving care of family around them.”

Carter has enjoyed being a home caregiver and has received much from her clients.

“I think it’s a desire to give people a better quality of life and extend the value of that life, not just everyday things, but going for rides and seeing the fall colors or spring flowers,” Carter said. “You can see the joy you give them. It takes someone who enjoys seeing that.”

November is National Family Caregivers Month.