A Caregiver’s Positive Impact in a Brief, Complex Situation

Andrew and Carl, a caregiver's story.
Carl and a granddaughter.

Andrew provided in-home care to Carl for a short period before his death, but the bond was instant and the kindness offered by Andrew proved especially valuable amid difficult circumstances.

Carl’s daughter Susan knew that her father needed a caregiver’s assistance. His health was delicate and she was concerned about the worsening dynamics between Carl and his wife. She began looking for the right home care agency and found Peter Carey, Executive Director of Homecare Choices and Care… From the Heart.

Around this time last year, Susan drove from her home in Connecticut to meet with Peter at her father’s retirement home in Cotuit, Mass. “Peter is an amazing individual, a keeper, and someone who just got my Dad,” Susan says, noting how quickly Peter developed a thoughtful care plan.

Peter introduced Carl and Susan to Andrew, a young caregiver studying to become an RN. Andrew had broad experience working in clinical and caregiving settings.

“We had a challenge because Dad’s wife was not supportive of having a caregiver in the home. The fact that the caregiver was a male of color seemed to add to her concern,” Susan explains.

Carl’s initial reluctance to believe he needed help added a second challenge. He had traveled the world with the Merchant Marines, and later rose through the corporate ranks to become vice president of a large reinsurance company in Stamford, Connecticut. Those who knew him described his “tenacious personality.” Carl knew what he wanted—and what he needed.

“It was about convincing my Dad that he needed this,” Susan recalls, “and how we were going to show him that having someone like Andrew was really going to open his world up.”

It helped that Andrew, Carl and Susan all had strong ties earlier in their lives to New Rochelle, N.Y. Carl and his first wife had lived in the Westchester suburb of New York City, where Susan was raised, and Andrew also had grown up there. He even knew the house where Carl and Susan had lived. That helped spark a fast and strong bond that developed between Carl and Andrew—and Andrew and Susan.

“By the time I met Carl, he and his wife were in the process of divorce,” Andrew remembers, noting the tension in the house that had left Carl isolated and lonely.

Andrew understood it was part of his role to keep an eye on Carl’s well-being and comfort —well beyond the parameters of a simple caregiving checklist. He understood the importance of being a good companion to Carl.

Andrew’s caregiving schedule started off modestly, but stepped up quickly. Initially he would help Carl twice during the week and once on the weekend, a couple of hours at a time.

Carl was in his mid-80s and still vibrant despite a recent stroke when Andrew first met him. He had just bought a new Audi A6. He walked with a cane and wasn’t supposed to be driving.

“He needed someone to keep an eye on him,” says Andrew, who would take Carl to doctor’s appointments and food shopping, among other outings.

“The whole reason for being on the Cape was summer and the beach, so they would go to the beach,” Susan remembers, adding, “Dad was a great cook, which was part of his therapy after the stroke. So they would make a plan, gather the ingredients and cook a meal.”

Carl made plans to take Andrew to different restaurants so he could try new things he had never eaten. After learning Andrew has allergies, Susan played the mother hen role: “I would say, ‘Andrew, where’s your EpiPen?’”

In addition to fine dining and travel, Carl favored reading, history, and the arts. He loved telling jokes and had a quit wit, sharing all of that with Andrew. Plans to visit Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were even in the works.

Andrew’s caregiving, which increased in frequency, allowed Carl to live the way he wanted, “just with an extra pair of hands … . The freedom it gave him, the peace of mind, and the sense of purpose, that was special,” Andrew says.

Carl’s status began to change quickly, however.

“There was clearly a lot of stress and sadness about his marriage,” says Andrew. “He didn’t share those feelings openly. He was trying to align himself positively. But with everything going on, he got sick. We all assumed it was just a cold. It was just draining the life out of him.”

There was discussion about Andrew staying with Carl over a weekend, which didn’t come together, and they went to the doctor that Monday. Carl was cleared to return home even though he was very weak.

That Wednesday, Susan couldn’t get in touch with Carl and asked Andrew to stop by in the afternoon to check on him. He found Carl on the floor of his home and performed CPR, but sadly it was too late.

“I was blessed to be able to experience Carl’s life with him for that brief time,” Andrew says. “I know from our time together it was mutual. Carl really valued having me around, and I really valued my time with him.”

Asked if it was difficult to be part of such an intense experience and then transition to a new client, Andrew says, “Part of the job is being able to recompose yourself and humble yourself for the next opportunity.”

Susan remains deeply appreciative of Andrew’s dedication to being the bright spot at the end of Carl’s life, and cites the sophistication and polish of Homecare Choices as key factors underpinning her positive experience.

“Andrew was pursuing his RN. For myself and my family, that was a huge plus because we were in another state,” she says. “It demonstrates the high caliber of people Homecare Choices provides.”

Potential clients who want to learn more about Homecare Choices and its services may reach out to Executive Director Peter Carey by phone at 508-313-2529, or by email at petercarey@homecarechoices.com. There’s also a contact form on the website and free consultations are offered.