The late Home Instead Senior Care® client trusted CAREGiver of the Month Cheryl Jackowicz so much that the client’s two most prized possessions ended up with Cheryl after the client passed away more than a year ago. Cheryl still has them: “Precious” and “Sweetie Pie,” two cats.

It was only when the medically fragile 84-year-old client knew Cheryl would take her cats that she would remain in a hospital for treatments. Sadly, the client lived out her final days in the hospital. The story is a clear indication that Cheryl truly lives the Home Instead Senior Care® guiding principles of “Build Trust, Take the Lead and Share Your Heart.”

“The client, who was sick, went to different hospitals and then checked herself out after a few days to go home and take care of her cats. She must have gone to all five hospitals and kept doing the same thing. I finally told her, ‘I’ll take care of the cats.’ I knew what was bothering her, and that she needed someone she could trust with her cats,” Cheryl said.

“The client got them at an animal shelter. The client had two sons who lived out of state, and they didn’t want the cats. I have my own cat, but I took them because I made a promise. It took six months before they all got along. My cat, ‘Alley Cat’ is also a rescue cat.”

Ironically, “Alley Cat” was as much a therapy animal for Cheryl’s late father as “Precious” and “Sweetie Pie” were for the client. “My dad loved my cat. From the start, ‘Alley Cat’ jumped on Dad’s lap like she knew him as an old friend. I think pets can sense when people are hurting,” said Cheryl, whose father suffered for three years from dementia brought on by two major strokes and numerous “mini-strokes,” or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Her father moved in with Cheryl for the final year of his life, and he died in 2015 at age 79.

Cheryl and her sister served as family caregivers for their father before Cheryl joined Home Instead Senior Care® of Clearwater, an award-winning franchise owned by Julie Castle, in May 2017. “A neighbor, who worked for Home Instead as a CAREGiver, helped my sister and me with Dad’s care as a friend. She gave us breaks, which allowed us to run errands. That’s how I became aware of Home Instead. My neighbor retired from Home Instead just about the time my dad died, and she prompted me to look at Home Instead for a job because she enjoyed working for them,” Cheryl recalled.

That wasn’t Cheryl’s first family caregiving experience. She also helped her grandmother about 25 years ago. “My grandmother had lived just down the street from my mother, and I would visit my grandmother on Sundays and go to church with her. Later, Grandma lived with my mother, and we eventually had to place Grandma in a care home, where we visited often. My sisters and I would visit my grandmother at odd hours just to see if she was receiving good care,” Cheryl said.

Working for Home Instead feels like helping family members, Cheryl said. “It’s difficult to describe specific memorable times with clients. When I first started with Home  Instead, I thought, ‘I can help them. I can do it.’ At the end of shifts, I’d go to my car and think, ‘This client has done so much for me emotionally. The client has made me feel good.’ I was needed by someone, and I could do something for the client. I received fulfillment. The clients felt better sometimes just by talking to me. I treated them with dignity and respect, and I was interested in them. They deserve that,” Cheryl said.

Cheryl likes her job and wants to keep going. “I work 30 hours a week because I receive social  security checks. Home Instead is flexible, and I’ve got the schedule I want. The communications are good. I can call and ask any questions, and I’ll get an answer right away. Getting time off is not hard as long as you give advance notice. I don’t necessarily mind working holidays because some clients don’t have families, and they still need me whether or not it’s a holiday.

I always keep them in mind. If there’s a bad storm, I am there with the client. It’s almost always uplifting. Some clients tell me: ‘I need you to talk to me instead of doing chores.’ They crave the attention, and I never deny them,” she said.

Our office serves all of Pinellas County, including Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Belleair, St. Petersburg, Gulfport and surrounding beaches. All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call [Phone] or apply online at https://www.homeinstead.com/165/home-care-jobs. For further information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit https://www.homeinstead.com/165.