April 2019 – Family Caregiving Inspired Fran to Join Home Instead
For about 10 years on New York’s Long Island, Fran Kilfeather and her husband took care of his elderly parents and Fran’s mother, who had dementia. There was no doubt Fran and her husband did wonderfully – none of their senior loved ones went to a care community. Fran’s mother-in-law lived to 103, and her mother lived to 95.
“We grew into the roles of being family caregivers, and I am glad we did it. I thank God we could. We had the energy,” Fran recalled. “I’ve said it for years after my family caregiving experience with a parent and my in-laws: Government spends quite a bit of money on people who go to nursing homes, and that is fine and appropriate. Government also should give stipends to family members if they can keep their senior loved ones at home. It just makes more sense. Sure, some families might need help, but a home is the best place if it can be done.”
Sadly, in May 2014, Fran lost her loving husband of 52 years. They’d been snowbirds, traveling between their New York home and Florida. “I decided to remain in one place permanently, and one of the considerations was ‘snow vs. no snow.’ I moved to Florida permanently in August 2017. After a while, I began looking online for a part-time job and found Home Instead Senior Care® of Clearwater,” Fran said. “I hadn’t worked at senior care professionally. But given the fact I’d been a family caregiver, I thought I could work for Home Instead.”
Fran joined the award-winning Home Instead Senior Care franchise owned by Julie Castle in January 2018. Director of CAREGiver Services JC Crady honored Fran’s work by announcing her CAREGiver of the Month honor for April 2019. Fran said: “I love working for Home Instead, and I love meeting neat, phenomenal people. There is so much to appreciate about each client, and the clients appreciate you. One lady client said, ‘I am so happy you came.’ You get back threefold what you give.”
Fran loves her clients’ stories. One client served on submarines in World War II in the Pacific, and his submarine was submerged off the Japanese coast when the first atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. “He described how they once spent 18 hours submerged as the Japanese dropped depth charges. Most of his fellow servicemen are gone. He had an incredible lifetime of stories,” Fran said.
Many of Fran’s caregiving experiences create memorable days. One 102-year-old client loves to grab his walker and walk with Fran in his neighborhood.
“The client has incredible neighbors. One neighbor saw us walking at our usual pace and joked, ‘Speed limit, 35 mph.’ We had a good laugh,” she said. In addition to the walks, Fran also helps as the client uses exercise bands. “I count for him as he exercises. We play checkers for about an hour, and he usually wins at least once. I think it is phenomenal when in a lifetime you can play checkers with a 102-year-old man. He looks forward to my visits. I might teach him how to play solitaire. It is said to be good for brain function,” she said.
Fran has five regular clients and may assist as many as 10 clients in a week. One client is a phenomenal artist who teaches art and has a number of paintings in her house. Another client was fearful on Fran’s first visit and would not let her in initially. “I called the office, and the client’s daughter called the client. I entered and spent two hours. I cleaned the kitchen, and we talked. With about 10 minutes left in my shift, she said, ‘Now I am sorry you have to leave.’ ”
Fran keeps Sundays open for church and family. “I have a daughter and a 9-year-old grandson here. They think I look adorable in my Home Instead apparel. I also have a 21-year-old grandson and an 18-year-old granddaughter in New York. I feel fortunate to have seen the grandchildren grow up,” Fran said. “I plan to do this as long as I am physically able. The need for CAREGivers here is phenomenal. Some cases are touching, and I am happy to be of service.”