CALUMET - Jean Laurie has been an in-home caregiver for almost 20 years, but she knew long before, that was the career she wanted.
"I've always wanted to be a caregiver since I was 5," she said. "For Halloween, I dressed up as a nurse."
Laurie, who has been a registered nurse for 23 years and now works with Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice in Calumet, said working in people's homes, whether for those who are recovering or those who are facing the end of their lives, being an in-home caregiver is a constantly changing experience.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Registered nurse Jean Laurie from Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice in Calumet listens to the heart and lungs of client Kenneth Sevon in his Calumet Township home. Laurie is an in-home caregiver working with those who are recovering from illness, injury or surgery as well as hospice patients.
"It's not typical every day," she said.
November is National Family Caregivers Month.
Before becoming an RN, Laurie said she was first a nurse's aide then a licensed practical nurse, starting her career in 1973 at what was then Portage View Hospital, the predecessor to Portage Health.
Laurie said when she was getting training as a registered nurse at Gogebic Community College, home care was part of the curriculum, and it was a pleasant surprise.
"I really liked it," he said.
When the opportunity to become an in-home caregiver presented itself, Laurie said she took it, but at first it was for practical, not financial, reasons.
"To be honest, it was the hours, " she said.
She had two children to take care of, Laurie said, and being a care giver allowed her to have more stable hours than working in a hospital allowed. The pay was less, however.
Laurie said in her job she works with both people who are recovering from injury, illness or surgery and with hospice patients.
Some hospice patients are accepting of their situation, Laurie said, but some fight it, and that can be difficult to deal with.
"You try to meet the client where they're at," she said.
The same is true for family members of hospice patients, but they can be in a different place emotionally than their relative.
Laurie said she usually is with hospice patients and their families when the patients die, and she gives continuing support to the family for a period after, also.
For home care patients who are recovering, Laurie said most appreciate her help, but others may resist.
"There can be challenging patients," she said. "Most are grateful to have home care."
One of her patients is Kenneth Sevon, who lives in Calumet Township. He had a leg amputated, and Laurie visits him to change the bandages on his wound and to take his blood pressure, check his heart and listen to his respiration.
Sevon said having Laurie visit him saves him having to travel to a doctor or hospital.
"It saves me lots," he said. "They're keeping an eye on me."
Sevon's wife, Shirley, appreciates the help Laurie gives her husband, also. Because of that help, she doesn't have to drive Kenneth to health care providers.
"It's a lot easier," she said. "We know he's being well-cared for."
Tammy Thyrion, who works with clients of Portage Home Health Care and Hospice living in The Bluffs Senior Community, said she's been an aide with the company for six years, and lead aide there since October.
Thyrion said although she's not a nurse, she does receive CPR and first aid training for her job.
Her job at The Bluffs is one mostly of helping with routine chores, Thyrion said.
"We assist the residents with activities of daily living," she said.
Those daily activities vary based on the needs of the resident, Thyrion said, but can include getting dressed and bathing. She's not allowed to help with medications.
How often she comes to a resident's room also varies, Thyrion said, but some visits can be quite often.
"We have some (assistance) packages that are hourly checks," she said.
Although the people she works with at The Bluffs are older, Thyrion said she has worked with a wide range of ages.
As with Laurie, Thyrion said there are occasionally problems with clients, but learning their routines helps diminish any problems.
"You become comfortable with them," she said. "Most of the people are very accepting and thankful and kind."
One of Thyrion's clients at The Bluffs is 94-year-old Margaret Cooper, who said although her family helps her run errands outside The Bluffs, having someone come to care for her in her apartment is very helpful.
"It means a great deal," she said. "It keeps me on track."
Thyrion said being a caregiver is very rewarding for her, and it's a continuation of various service jobs she's had.
"I've always worked with people," he said. "I enjoy people a lot."
She sometimes will develop a close emotional attachment to some of her clients, and she doesn't resist that.
"It's hard not to (become attached) when you work as closely with them day in and day out," she said.
Home care provides an important service to people who otherwise may have to be in a hospital or other care-facility situation.
"This was a nice way to keep people in their homes as long as possible," she said.