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Care Pro of the Month

Millennial CAREGiver Finds Job Fulfillment

Chelsea is a millennial, a member of Generation Y … and she is an award-winning CAREGiver with Home Instead Senior Care® of Clearwater, Florida. For the past eight years, the 26-year-old Florida native has worked for a network that is the world’s leading provider of in-home care services for seniors.

So, why isn’t Chelsea working in retail, chasing a corporate career path or serving up gourmet coffee in a stylish java shop? Chelsea admits she doesn’t fit the millennial stereotype. She loves what she’s doing and feels fulfillment as a specialist who skillfully assists some of society’s most vulnerable. Chelsea’s compassion and expertise allow seniors to remain in their homes instead of being forced into care communities.

“Should I have pursued a ‘younger-person’ job like retail? Senior care does seem out of the normal for someone as young as I am, and I’m the youngest CAREGiver at my Home Instead Senior Care franchise,” Chelsea said.

“I’m asked by friends and others what I do. I tell them, ‘I take care of people in need, and I enjoy it because there is bonding as if they were family. There are strong connections.’ There can be challenging days. I’ve heard this: ‘You’re a different breed: Compassionate, patient, kind and sweet.’ I’ve always been that way, so I have the right kind of personality. I make a difference not only for the seniors, but also for their families. Outside of work, I always notice when seniors are struggling with something like finding things in a grocery store. People don’t understand the difficulties seniors have, especially those with dementia.”

Chelsea and other CAREGiver are serving a burgeoning population leading to a pressing need for senior-care workers in America. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to more than 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to from 15 percent to nearly 24 percent. About 10,000 people turn 65 each day, the standard retirement age. And, according to Census forecasts, that number is set to rise to nearly 12,000 people within the next 10 years.

Chelsea said there can sometimes be a misconception or incorrect generalization about seniors. “You often hear that seniors are all grumpy and set in their ways, but that is not so. I receive compliments and comments such as, ‘You remind me of my granddaughter.’ Most of the seniors with whom I’ve worked are appreciative, and that makes me feel good. Their families are complimentary, and there is bonding. That is a reward, a perk of the job,” Chelsea pointed out.
As a Home Instead Senior Care employee, what exactly does Chelsea do?

She provides companionship, safety assurance, meal preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping, and transportation and errands. Chelsea and other CAREGivers offer personal assistance with eating, grooming, dressing, bathing, incontinence, dementia support, cognitive impairment, hospice support and mobility. To build on their knowledge and experience, Chelsea and other CAREGivers are offered ongoing training. That includes the opportunity to complete the Home Instead Senior Care network’s Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementias CARE: Changing Aging Through Research and Education® Training Program.

Chelsea noted many millennials are unhappy or bored with their jobs. Not so for her. “I am not cooped up in a building from 8 to 5. I go places with the clients, on fun outings as well as necessary destinations such as medical appointments and grocery shopping. They are friends – you are doing things to help out friends,” Chelsea said. “Home Instead Senior Care is known for its job flexibility where you can request hours that fit your schedule. That is a huge positive.”

Of course, Chelsea didn’t wake up one day and decide on senior care as a career. “I’ve had a comfort level with seniors since I was very young. We lived next door to my grandma when I was growing up. I went to help her when she was still self-sustaining and enjoyed spending time with her,” said Chelsea, whose grandmother passed away last February after turning 90.

Although CAREGivers do not have to be CNAs, Chelsea focused on that career path in high school, where her school district offered a health academy. She earned her CNA license through that program as a junior. Chelsea explained: “It was during the training in that program I gained a lot of experience. I interned in a nursing home and hospital. I was put in the thick of the action and learned a lot. Having to renew the CNA license every two years, I’ve passed the exam four times, so I’ve had the license eight years. My older and younger sisters have been through it. Mom, who was a Home Instead CAREGiver for many years, wanted us to have a skill immediately after leaving high school.”

Chelsea has been a CAREGiver since 2011, joining Home Instead Senior Care in Lecanto, Florida, after she graduated from high school. “I was with the Citrus County office for five years before I moved to St. Petersburg and took the CAREGiver job with Clearwater three years ago,” said Chelsea, who was honored as CAREGiver of the Month within months of joining owner Julie Castle’s Clearwater franchise.

Chelsea smiled when she was asked if prospective clients and their family members wondered if she could handle the job. She remembered when a client’s daughter admitted she had doubts about such a young CAREGiver, later telling Chelsea: “When we were interviewing you to be Mom’s CAREGiver, the question in my mind was: ‘Can Chelsea handle something this big?’ I had drawn a big question mark over your name on my notepad. Based on everything we learned about you, we decided to select you. You’re so young, but you brought so much joy and happiness to our mother, and you are very skilled and confident.”

Chelsea admitted: “I’ve had doubts sometimes. But I’d hear a lot of appreciation from many clients. Even though I am so young. I have felt like an old soul because I was around older folks. When I started, I clicked with some clients. They were like grandparents. With the challenging ones, I won them over by learning their routines and doing exactly what they asked. With the education I had in high school and with gaining experience every day, I feel it is a great job for my personality.”
What does the future hold for Chelsea? “The learning never ends. In addition to holding the CNA licensing, I have an associate of arts in physical therapy. I’d like to go the Registered Nurse route someday. Right now, I love the job flexibility. The good thing is, I can probably fashion hours around future schooling and my personal life, and remain with Home Instead,” she said.