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Care Pro of the Month

December 2018 – Shirley Wiggins – To Navigate Life’s Twists and Turns, Shirley Follows God’s Road Map

It was 2013, and a series of major life changes loomed on the horizon for Shirley Wiggins, who recently was honored as December 2018 CAREGiver of the Month at Home Instead Senior Care® of Clearwater. The bottom line, Shirley said, was that God had a plan, and she could see a path unfold as she documented her meditations in her daily prayer journal. “It gave me chills,” she said, “because it was answered prayer in every step. It worked out according to God’s hand.”  

Six years ago, Shirley chose not to continue her 25-plus-year hospital career when she declined a job shift after her employer closed its behavioral health unit where Shirley had been a case manager. “God’s leading seemed clear because the job transfer would have taken me an hour’s drive from home. At the same time, my mother’s dementia had worsened, and she needed someone 24/7,” Shirley recalled. “When my job ended, I began serving as Mom’s primary family caregiver while also providing daily care for my infant granddaughter.”  

Shirley cared for her mother until she died in 2016. “I kept her in her home until she passed away. I had no formal training in medical arts because I always worked at business positions with the hospital. Mom’s situation gave me experience with challenging caregiving. Moving toward Home Instead was like clockwork and another answer to prayer,” Shirley said. 

Reflecting on her time with her mother, Shirley explained: “There are seven siblings in my family, and I was blessed to take care of Mom because God chose me to do it. Mom never wanted to go anywhere without me and never forgot me. I was happy to do it. It made me just as happy to have my granddaughter and Mom together at times. My granddaughter would put lotion on her great-grandmother’s legs and rub it in. There were memorable multi-generational moments. It was special to see the two of them together.”  

In September 2017, Shirley joined owner Julie Castle’s award-winning Home Instead Senior Care franchise following an online search. “I think this is my calling because I absolutely love my job as a CAREGiver. I was tired of shuffling paper at the hospital. I like being a CAREGiver so much more. ‘To us, it’s personal,’ the company motto, is very true for me. It’s hands-on help for someone who needs the assistance, and clients appreciate us,” Shirley said. 

Shirley pointed out Home Instead Senior Care matches the CAREGiver to the client very well. “Home Instead is an awesome group of people. I am happy with the office. You could not ask for a better company. You must have a concern for people from the heart,” said Shirley, who emphasized, “I am a caregiver by nature,” and illustrated the point with a childhood memory.  

“I was 12 years old, and my mother brought my baby sister home after giving birth. Mom was exhausted, and she trusted me, so she put the baby in bed with me so she could sleep. I took care of the baby all through the night and continued to do so for a long time. She’s in her 30s now, and I remind her we still have that caregiving bond. I took care of everybody,” Shirley said.   

Shirley’s only Home Instead Senior Care client, one whom she’s assisted for two years, feels like a family member. “It is a match made in heaven. She is the sweetest lady you’d ever want to meet. We are two peas in a pod. I am her only CAREGiver,” Shirley said.  

Shirley was working with Home Instead for several months before she went to the client’s house for a fill-in shift. The client, a widow in her 80s, immediately called the Home Instead office and asked for Shirley on a regular basis – alternating five days one week and six days the next. “I am like her family. Everything clicked right away,” Shirley said.  

“Sometimes we cook together. I do the laundry, clerical work and take her to medical appointments. I get her groceries, and sometimes she comes with me. I take her clothes shopping, sometimes to the mall. She’s very happy to get out. Sometimes I take her by the pool where she says she likes ‘to soak up the vitamin D.’ I arrange to have someone take her to Sunday church,’ ” Shirley said.  

Shirley is still busy as a family caregiver at nights, taking care of her 4-year-old granddaughter and 1-year-old grandson. She also picks up three or more children from school after her Home Instead shift ends. “People are ‘my business,’ young and old. There’s nothing that’s more important,” Shirley said.