CAREGiver of the Month Lori Maslak literally can cook up something great for her clients whenever they want it. Long before Lori joined Home Instead® of Clearwater in September 2020, she graduated from Onondaga Community College with a 3.95 grade-point average in food service administration. Lori had worked at two food service management positions before she needed to tend to her ill husband as a family caregiver.

“Life took me in a different direction away from the professional culinary arts. My husband received a cancer diagnosis in February 2019, and he passed away in December 2019,” Lori said. It wasn’t her husband’s first health challenge. Lori had moved from Syracuse, New York, in October 2015 with her husband (her fiancé at the time), who needed a double-lung transplant. After residing in Florida for four months, he received his transplant.

Following her husband’s death, Lori began serving as a private caregiver for a friend of her husband’s family. “I have enjoyed helping people, so when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I could not continue to work with my private-duty caregiving client, I applied to Home Instead,” said Lori, whose earlier caregiving experience came when she helped her sisters take care of their ill father before he passed away in 1999 and their mom before she died in 2002.

Lori’s first day with a Home Instead client, Sept. 23, 2020, was significant. “That day was a good sign for me because it was my late husband’s birthday, and I felt very comfortable with the woman client. We hit it off, and she was so happy that I knew how to cook. Lately, she has been in and out of the hospital. As a result, Home Instead scheduled me with new clients, and I have not met anyone who hasn’t wanted me in his or her home,” Lori said.

One couple needed a CAREGiver to prepare dinner and get them ready for bed, and Lori turned out to be an outstanding choice to send to them. “They are a cute couple. I asked them what they wanted for dinner and they said, ‘No leftovers,’ so I asked if they would like to have me transform their leftovers into a new dish, and they asked me how I could do that. I told them I knew how to cook and then I explained I hate leftovers too, but I always try to make my leftovers into something new and better than what they were,” Lori recalled.

Lori took their leftovers of 1½ hamburgers, two stuffed peppers and a slice of eggplant with some already mashed potatoes. Then she cut up the meat, peppers and eggplant into a bowl. She took the leftover sauce from the stuffed peppers and added a little ketchup and barbecue sauce, and a drop of gravy master. Then Lori took the mashed potatoes, warmed them up with milk, and she added sour cream and cheddar cheese and put that on top of the meat mixture and baked it for 30 minutes. She said: “It was an out-of-the-normal Shepherd’s Pie. They loved it and the little lady said there is only one thing missing – dessert.”

Lori said, “OK, hold on. Let me make a little something nice for you. All it took was one-half banana cut up with a squeeze of honey and a shake of some cinnamon sugar. I heated it up on the stove just until the sugar was dissolved and spooned it over ice cream. The clients said that was the best meal they ever had from leftovers and asked when I could start full time with them. That just made me smile from ear to ear because I did something so easy for me that made a lasting impression on them.”

Staff members at the award-winning Home Instead franchise owned by Julie Castle also were smiling … and rolling out an award. Director of CAREGiver Services JC Crady announced that Lori had been honored as the January CAREGiver of the Month. The clients’ appreciation for Lori’s efforts has motivated her even more.

“I love the fact that a client is able to stay in his or her home with Home Instead’s help. It is truly amazing, because people tend to feel safe in their homes as they grow older,” Lori said. “I have been with Home Instead for five months and absolutely love the company and the people who work there. They are all so helpful and understanding. I always give the company and my clients 100 percent of my attention. Together, we make a great team.”

Lori added: “I also appreciate Home Instead for helping me grow not only with the company but as a CAREGiver. They have been doing this a lot longer than I have, and they offer help and information on whatever I need.”