To create the best match possible for our clients, we recruit a diverse range of caregivers – college-educated individuals, nursing and pre-med students, performing artists, semi-retired professionals, home care[k6] aides, nursing assistants and various others. We believe personal engagement is often overlooked in the home care industry, but it does not have to be that way. Every caregiving relationship should be based on respect, compassion and fulfillment.
Meet some of our caregivers.
Michael Whitmire Photo
For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed helping others and have recognized the value in each and every life. Helping others live every day to the fullest, not only enriches their lives, but as a companion it enriches and fulfills my life as well. I have always found it rewarding to work in a field that has the potential to make a significant difference in someone’s life.
My extensive experience as an educator has helped make my transition into the role as a companion much easier. Many of the teaching and motivational techniques mastered during the years working as an educator, whether it was helping underprivileged students learn how to speak English or working with adults with disabilities, have proven to be very helpful in working with the elderly.
If you ask me why I became a companion/caregiver; well, like so many others these days, I was suddenly and unexpectedly thrust into the role of caregiver when my parents started to experience the onset of dementia, coupled with many other health issues and complications. Although it was a very difficult time, it was a very rewarding seven-year journey traveled alongside my parents, not only taking care of them, but learning about the illness of dementia and its unpredictable progression. During this time, I also learned that there are so many little things that we can do to make a difference in their lives and to give them the love and respect that they so well deserve. I learned that little things such as a simple touch, a heartfelt smile, a kind word, singing a song, reading a paragraph from their favorite book, or just sitting quietly next to them can make a big difference. I can honestly say that the experience of caring for my parents only reinforced my passion for helping others.
When asked if there is an experience that stands out during my journey as a companion, it is difficult for me to pick just one. However, I must say that some of my favorite times are just listening to the stories my clients tell. Most of them have lived such full lives and are very proud of their remarkable experiences; so, telling their stories and having someone listen brings such joy to them. To me, no matter how many times I may have heard the same stories, I give them my devoted attention, and each time I try to think of new questions to ask, which in turn often reminds them of more stories.
I have enjoyed everyone that I have had the honor to care for, and I can only hope that I have touched their lives as they have done mine. I love the companionship aspect very much. I enjoy the one on one time with my clients, and giving them the personal attention and respect they deserve. My philosophy as a companion is to try to enrich the life of any client and make a difference in their quality of life. I try to make them feel that they count, help assure them that they are still needed; and, help them see that they are still important, still have a purpose, and still have a voice. Sometimes it is as simple as getting them engaged in meaningful conversations and activities; or maybe, just sitting and patiently listening to them and showing a genuine interest in what they are saying.
Caring for someone requires you to wear many different hats at once as you are trying to balance their life, as well as your own. So, working as a companion has taught me to be even more patient, understanding, and compassionate. However, the most important thing that I have learned from being a companion is that it has given me a better understanding of what is really important in life. When I bring a smile to their face, make them laugh, and make them feel that their life matters; then, not only their lives are enriched, but also mine in my journey as a companion.
Rosa Mayhue Photo
Growing up in the South, I had a special fondness for the elderly. I can still remember going to the store for Ms. Odelia, when I was around 10 years old and being rewarded with paper dolls or a dime. When I came to NY, I befriended this elderly man, named Mr. Shipley. We would sit on his stoop and become immersed in conversation. When he died I felt a void in my life, so a couple of years later I became a volunteer for the elderly for eleven years. Eight of those years were spent with a feisty woman named Bennie Baker.
My visits usually included a manicure and hand massage. She loved to watch TV, especially the news, so we would have conversations about current events. She loved Tom Brokaw and really believed that he could see her as she was watching him report the news. Another volunteer and I always gave her a birthday party, and she would hold the cake up towards the TV, so Tom could see it and later she would brag to her sister in California about what good friends she had. Mrs. Baker was a ball of fire with a memory that was unbelievable.
She always reminded me to take good care of myself as not to neglect my own needs.
In her 95th year, her health began to decline, but her spirits were still high until a month before her death. The last thing she said to me was “Thank you Rose (she never called me Rosa), for everything you have ever done for me.” I was with her when she died a couple of weeks later. It has been many years, and I still miss her.
Since then I have worked with several elderly people. They are all different and unique. Some have become my best friends. They give to me what I give to them; love, respect, and a lot of caring. Many live their lives voraciously through me. And Paula says to me often “Every day is a full Life.”
Gregor Collins Photo
Gregor is a writer, actor and producer living in New York. Starting his career in Los Angeles producing reality TV, he shifted gears to acting, performing on stage, on television, and in feature films. His writing/acting have been featured in The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Publishers Weekly, Cinema Editor Magazine, and on Off-Broadway stages across New York. His acclaimed memoir, The Accidental Caregiver: How I Met, Loved, and Lost Legendary Holocaust Refugee Maria Altmann, was adapted into a stage play in New York in 2015.
How does being a writer and a creative individual help you in this line of work? By nature I'm a storyteller. And I think what comes with being a storyteller is that you have a bottomless lust for life, a deep yearning for learning, an insatiable curiosity about people, and a desire to grow and squeeze as much out of life as you can in such a short time. In this respect when I care for someone -- when I have this indefatigable need to connect intimately to others - I feel like I'm caring for myself in the process.
Tell me about your first memory providing any kind of care to someone – how did it make you feel?I've spent the majority of my life caring only about myself, and there are two people that come to mind who changed that, and changed me in the process. First, my friend Jud, who has a rare disease called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. This is a disease an estimated 700 people IN THE WORLD suffer from, and Jud is one of those 700. I met him in an elevator 17 years ago and to this day he is one of my closest friends. He needs a lot of physical help, and I do it because it's in my nature, but, yes, after doing it I do feel good about myself. The second person is Maria Altmann, a woman I took care of for 3 years, a woman who impacted me so deeply I wrote a book about our relationship. These two people in my life have inspired me to continue being a companion, because, especially with elders, I think it's absolutely vital for them to have a young person to interact with regularly. That's why ComforCare is such a valuable company.
What is the feeling you get when you make your client smile? Please elaborate. The kind of thing that makes me the most emotional when I'm with someone I care about isn't knowing how important that someone is to me, it's knowing how important I am to them. So when I see that I make them smile, it really is life affirming. It makes my own feel valuable. I think of the Einstein quote: "Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value." Being of value to someone or a group of people is really what makes life worthwhile.
Tell me a story about one of the happiest/best days you’ve ever had with a client? Why was it such a memorable day? One of the best days I've ever had with a person for whom I was caring was the time Maria and I went to the opera to see Placido Domingo. He invited us to Das Reingold at the Music Center in Los Angeles in 2010. During intermission he met us at a door and said hello, and gave Maria a nice big hug. People were wondering who the heck this old lady was and why the Great Placido Domingo was spending so much time talking to a stranger when he had a show to finish. That was thrilling for her. Since she was losing a lot of her short term memory at that point she had forgotten that Placido knew her and that they were in fact friends, and so she was extra surprised to be hugging arguably the greatest opera singer of all time in a random hallway in the middle of a show. She was over the moon for a whole week after that.
Tell me about how you’ve changed/grown since working as a companion? I'm an extremely self-absorbed person. That tends to be a personality trait of people in the "arts". But I'm not selfish. There's a huge difference between being self-absorbed, and selfish. Any time in my life that I have the opportunity to take my mind off my own life and see that I'm helping someone else's, does wonders for my soul. I really cherish those times that I can be a companion. I have no patience with myself, but a world of patience with another person.
Jonathan Dent Photo
The ability to emulate human sensibilities -whether onstage or on the page- requires that the artist attempting to recreate these complexities be fully present in the moment. I have found that the ability to be present is, without doubt, the most useful tool in doing Companion work. By presence I simply mean a focused attentiveness and openness. When I was studying to be an actor in drama school, many times my teachers would emphasize the need to be a "good scene partner". I have found that my best experiences of doing the companion work have been when I was the best scene partner for my client. Being a good scene partner in this context means simply putting them first. Giving the client my undivided and compassionate attention has always yielded the best results.
There's truly nothing better when doing this work than feeling as though you and your client have made a meaningful connection. I'll never forget one particular moment I had with a client when I discovered a treasure-chest full of photographs he had taken over the course of his life. The photo-albums were stored in a large dresser that I had seen many times, but never thought to open. One day I asked Bill if I could look inside and he simply nodded and said that I was welcome to. What a joyful discovery awaited me! Inside, there were binders and binders full of stunning photographs that Bill had taken over the many years of traveling with his wife. I grabbed one of the binders, and Bill came and sat beside me and we flipped through the pages gleefully sitting side by side. It was a truly incredible experience because both he and I got to relive the fantastic trips that he had taken, and also just admire the precision of his photography skills. Bill had been diagnosed with dementia a few months before, and I soon discovered that looking through his old binders not only helped him engage his memory, but it also deepened the bond that he and I shared because he was able to tell me stories about each photo, and I would just sit and listen with utter fascination. There truly is no better feeling than connecting deeply with a client.
Doing the Companion work has taught me so much about the nature of patience. Because of the frenetic energy of New York City, I can't tell you how many times I've been out with a client in the streets, and have witnessed how little patience people have for the elderly. I too, have had to catch myself on occasion, needing to slow my pace, both physically and mentally. When working with a client, I've learned the necessity of adjusting to his or her own specific rhythm, and I've also learned how to (hopefully) make he or she feel comfortable and confident that whatever rhythm they are operating at, that that rhythm is absolutely perfect.
Valeria Kovatcheva Photo
How have your nursing studies helped you in this line of work? Nursing studies focus on a process of collecting information, making assessments and deciding on a course of action/treatment that will best benefit a particular client. This involves constant vigilance, evaluation and re-evaluation. For me, the most valuable tools from this toolkit have been applying therapeutic communication and observing the client carefully in order to focus on his or her needs. I will then tailor my care based on the individual and the responses that I get with each action. I have learned that therapeutic communication could sometimes mean that I sit with the client in silence and it can be a very effective and valuable form of care.
Tell me about your first memory providing any kind of care to someone – how did it make you feel? My most dear memory of providing care was with my grandmother after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. This disease is heart wrenching as it slowly crushes every bit of beauty, memory and hope that make us individuals and gives meaning to our existence. It leaves us hollow, scared and despondent. That goes for all those involved in the care, not just the once afflicted with the illness. My personal experience was terrifying, because I was losing someone who I loved very, very much and I was losing them in this slow and reoccurring nightmare. I had no idea how to deal with it. It was a terrible burden on the entire family. The most painful realization was that I can’t fix the situation. It is really hard to come to terms with that thought, but once I accepted it, I could focus on my grandmother and what she needed the most right now. Every little thing we did together became very valuable and I as long as we could focus on completing one task, one moment at a time, we could be happy.
What is the feeling you get when you make your client smile? Please elaborate. I remember the first time I made a client laugh. It was awesome. I realized that I was taking it for granted that my client can still derive pleasure from humor and laughter. He happens to be uncomfortable with physical contact and I am very careful to avoid touching him. I took it for granted that he still appreciates the meaning of a hug as an expression of affection. When he asked me why I never hugged him, I was taken aback. Later that day when I was leaving, I pretended to give him a hug by hugging the air in front of me. It made him laugh. Now I do it every day and it usually earns me a huge smile.
Susan Varon Photo
Communicating and connecting with people--whether its a theatre or television audience or sitting and talking or singing with someone is, and has always been, a major joy and interest of mine. Music and the Arts can be so enriching and involving--be it recalling old movies with a mutual fan, or listening to familiar music, or discussing a novel or newspaper article--it's a wonderful way find a mutual interest and conversation.
As I began to deal with aging parents--I saw that getting good care--someone patient, respectful engaged was often a challenge. When you do find someone who is a good fit, it can be such a relief and comfort. I always keep the image of my parents in mind as I work with clients--I give the same respect, interest, engagement and care that I would always want for my own parents. Every day, every time. The other day, I was coming home from an outing with a client--we had visited a MemoryTree meeting--my client met other people who engaged, connected and talked with her as she participated in the class. My client had mentioned to me that she had been isolated at home, afraid of going out alone for fear of falling, worried about her failing memory---but today, after this experience, she has a renewed sense of HOPE. That says it all for me. I am proud to be a part of the Comforcare Family.
Finding a Match
Our services begin with a free in-home visit that allows us the chance to learn more about our clients and their home environment. We want to gain valuable insights that will help us match the right caregiver, develop a weekly plan and recommend other important resources for wellness and safety.
Click here [AH8] or call us at 212-256-1933 to get started.