When you think of the term “home health aide,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you likely think of someone who assists with household tasks like cleaning, bathing or running errands.
But Sally Catalano is transforming what it means to be a home health aide.
Sally sees herself more as a friend stopping by for an afternoon chat than someone who is there merely to help with the activities of daily living.
Each day, Sally visits with members of Kendal at Home who have requested her services to sit and talk, help them with errands or activities or simply participate in an activity she knows they enjoy.
“I try very hard to build a relationship with a person, so I'm not going in as a client home health aide. I go in as a friend who's coming over to your house. Nobody feels pressure when a friend comes over to your house. You're just sitting and talking,” she says.
Many of the members Sally works with have been diagnosed with some form of cognitive decline, and her work helps them stay independent, remaining in their homes as they age for as long as possible.
She accomplishes this through unique dementia care training provided by Kendal at Home and dementia care expert Jennifer Brush. Training sessions can consist of anything from the latest care techniques on dementia and cognitive decline to book recommendations to helpful question-and-answer series. At a recent training, Sally learned a new activity that delighted those she works with.
“We made those tie blankets where you get fleece and cut and tie it around the edges. I cut them, and she ties them. I let her go to the store, and I let her pick the materials, so she gets to go and pick the ones she wants. Because she's helping somebody by donating the blanket, she wants to do one every week. It's great to see her get excited over it,” she says.
When Sally gets a new client — especially one with cognitive decline — she takes time to discover what makes them tick.
“I try to make their lives as normal as possible. We talk a lot about things like, ‘What did you do that you can't do now?’” she explains.
One of the members Sally works with enjoys writing and sending Christmas cards, but found that she was no longer able to do so because she struggled with finding the right words to use.
“We've come up with a process of writing on a piece of paper what we want to say, and then she transposes it onto the card, so she is now doing what she used to do,” she says.
Sally gets the most satisfaction out of helping others as part of her Kendal at Home caregivers duties.
“We are not there because we want to go make a billion dollars. We're there because we want to make a difference in somebody's life. The people are the best. I love the hugs I get and how excited I am to actually see them and talk to them. I enjoy going to see my friends every day,” she says.