Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got into caregiving?
My name is Norma Ellen, I just moved to south San Francisco and I've been a caregiver for over 25 years. Becoming a caregiver was just presented to me, and I thought to myself, "I can do this. I want to do this." I became a caregiver because I saw a great need in the community. I saw that I could make a difference, I could make people's lives better. I could devise ways of enriching lives. I found that I actually grew as a person, also, in that endeavor.
Who is one of your most memorable clients?
Of all the people I've cared for, the first person that comes to mind is an astrophysicist who totally caught my attention, grabbed my heart, was one of the most gratifying situations of my life in that I got to participate in his rehabilitation after a stroke. A very wonderful moment occurred, just spontaneously. I had been eating Chinese food and I had chopsticks in the room. We had going on the TV an orchestral piece on the PBS channel. I handed Mr. Astrophysicist a chopstick in his stroke affected hand and I said, "Let's direct music." He did and the hand worked. It worked at least for a while, while we had music going, every time we tried that. I found that very gratifying. What I admired most about this man was his intellect and the ability to play. He was very playful, which made the chopstick effort ideal work. He directed music with that chopstick and he laughed the whole time he was doing it. I should say that he was never expected to walk again, and he did. The chopstick in the stroke affected hand was the beginning of a process that ended in this man walking.
What piece of advice would you give to a new caregiver?
What is your proudest moment as a caregiver?
The one piece of advice I would give to a new caregiver, a newcomer in the field, is not to be afraid to love. I have an idea that love is the great healer and laughter is right behind that. So love and laugh, it works.
My proudest moment, as a caregiver, happened at the end of a case that I was following. I had been called to the hospital to attend a young man who had been injured in a motorcycle accident. I first saw him in a coma and I knew that he responded to some childhood songs. So I sang to him, initially, while he was in the coma and we saw on the readout from the inter-cranial sensors that he was hearing that. We got a spike. I was there to hear his first word after he emerged from the coma, that was very gratifying. The nurses had given him a drink of water and he said, "More." The one thing that topped it all was when I walked into the room and he said, "Hi Mom, where you been?" This was my son.