When Lorinda Harkenrider started as a caregiver for Senior1Care client Frances C., a woman in her late 90’s who lived by herself, the client’s daughter let Lorinda know that she would never receive a complaint from Fran. At least, to her face. Fran saw direct complaints as improper, so she’d likely share her grievances privately with her daughter. With that information, Lorinda knew there would be some guesswork involved in this client’s care.
Lorinda was up for the task and took it upon herself to read Fran the best she could, observing her routines, habits, and preferences. After a short while, Fran began to remind Lorinda of her own great-grandmother, especially in her small, everyday habits like having a morning and afternoon tea, or how she liked to relax in the same, special spot after a hot shower.
Lorinda established a trusting relationship with Fran, going above and beyond to ensure Fran was as comfortable and cared for as possible. She would give her back rubs, which Fran especially enjoyed, and made sure she ate on time, something Fran was particular about. Drawing from her experiences of taking care of her own elderly family members, Lorinda prepared meals that she thought Fran would enjoy, like ham salad or Beef Manhattan, so that she would eat enough during the day. Meanwhile, she waited for the call from Fran’s daughter that her mom had a complaint.
She made sure to let her know that she would be there for her. Fran could no longer hear, even with hearing aids, but could read Lorinda’s lips as she told her that she was going to love her until the end. They both got teary-eyed as Fran offered back a simple “thank you” to Lorinda.
At the end of Lorinda’s assignment, she asked Fran’s daughter if her mom had any complaints, as the entire time Fran hadn’t mentioned any, just as predicted. Fran’s daughter said her mom had offered just one complaint: “She’s too good at her job!”
A Lifetime of Caregiving
Lorinda grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as a third-generation immigrant in a Puerto Rican family. Her grandfather had heard from his brother-in-law, another Puerto Rican transplant, of job opportunities at General Electric downtown. With few opportunities in their home country (mainly farming or low-paying jobs), they took a leap of faith and flew nearly 2,000 miles north to the second-largest city in Indiana.
The family’s life wasn’t easy. They weren’t living in a Hispanic community at the time and had to deal with the culture shock and racism that comes with being a minority in a new culture. Yet over time they made friends and received a lot of help from neighbors.
Lorinda saw firsthand what it meant to take care of family. As a child she would tag along with her mom to take care of her great-grandmother who likely had Alzheimer’s (she was never formally diagnosed) and grandparents who were already in their late 60s or early 70s when Lorinda was born. “You may not be able to vacuum or mop but you can at least dust,” her mom would say.
While she may not have fully appreciated it at the time, she says those experiences went a long way when she became a CNA and caregiver later in life, especially when she found herself taking care of her dad, aunt, and uncle. “My mom has always instilled in me that anybody we meet, we’re always going to treat them like family. And especially the elderly, or those less fortunate,” Lorinda says. “Whoever I meet, I always ask ‘what if that was my grandparent or aunt or uncle?’ I would want them to be treated no differently than I treat my own family.”
You can see the way Lorinda offers not just care, but friendship and connection for those she looks after. For a woman in her 50’s who needs consistent care due to years of dealing with severe psoriatic arthritis, it’s sitting together and diamond painting while chatting about growing up in a similar era and giving each other advice, much like two girlfriends would.
For an aging client with Alzheimer’s, it was helping her stay engaged, being right next to her as she would crochet or color. The client wanted to watch TV, but found channels like Hallmark difficult to follow. On a hunch, Lorinda wondered if an older show would be more familiar and easy to watch. The client perked up and was able to follow along with old black and white shows like the Andy Griffith Show.
Though she’s loved working with all her clients, one of them stands out as the most memorable: Tom W.
Turtle Tom the Biker Dude
Tom was a sweet old man with a colorful past and plenty of dry one-liners, as Lorinda describes him. He grew up Mennonite, but took to the road on his motorcycle at 18, leaving both the church and his hometown behind to live the biker life. Lorinda was stunned when Tom showed her a picture of himself in his younger days, standing next to his Harley with his big leather biker jacket on, angel wings emblazoned on the back, his long flowing hair and muscular build making him look like he could be one the cover of GQ Magazine, as Lorinda says. He often talked about being in a biker club along with his childhood best friend, roaming the open road through California, Arizona, and the rest of the U.S.
One of his, perhaps unexpected, loves was turtles, earning him the moniker “Turtle Tom.” He grew up living near a pond since the age of six, always exploring the water and the turtles swimming and sunning there. He still owned two large tortoises, too heavy to pick up, when Lorinda took care of him, and they would switch between the outdoor enclosure when it was warm and sunny, and indoors, sometimes needing to be lured inside with a large carrot.
Together, Tom and Lorinda would take Tom’s black Camaro and go around town once a week, stopping by his favorite Thai restaurant or Bob Evans, going shopping for clothes or groceries, or driving through Amish country. He loved to tell stories and they would sit out in the pavilion in his backyard as he remembered his life of adventures.
He still had a streak of vanity in him, even in his old age, and he would ask for help getting his nice clothes on. He’d comb the wisps of hair he had left and get in front of the mirror a few times before leaving. She’d tease him about his vanity, and he’d crack a joke, laughing as they often did.
Lorinda’s face lights up as she talks about the last time she saw Tom, the man she describes as being like a “second father.” He had been moved to a memory care facility and didn’t immediately recognize her as she walked in, but as she grabbed his hands and asked “Do you know who I am? It’s Lorinda,” the tears fell from his eyes as he recalled the times they spent together. It was just a few months, yet the impact on both caregiver and client was deeply felt by both.
Finding a Calling at Senior1Care
Though Lorinda has been a CNA for a long time, it was only last year that she learned about Senior1Care through a friend and came on board as a caregiver. As she puts it, Senior1Care offers a different type of care, one that’s beautiful in the way that it lets people give 100% of their time to the clients, offering not just help with daily tasks, but companionship and connection on a deeper level. “I am so blessed that the company has taken me on and opened my eyes to a different kind of care. Caregiving has become a calling for me,” Lorinda says. “I can’t say enough about Senior1Care.”