Shari lives in Neenah with her husband, Brad, of 10 years and their two children. She enjoys working and visiting family in the Upper Peninsula.

Shari was a caregiver long before it became her job title. For years, Shari cared for her mother while she battled cancer. After her mother passed away, Shari started working for the postal service. Years later, Shari’s mother-in-law hinted that she should consider being a caregiver because it seemed to come naturally to her.

A Career in Caregiving

For almost six years, Shari has been a caregiver at Valley VNA. She oversees 10 residents and assists them in any way she can.

“You really become attached,” she said. “These people are my family. Even when I’m on vacation I can’t stop thinking about them. I wonder how they’re doing.”

The Good

Her favorite part about working for Valley VNA is when she feels she’s making a difference and sees that everyone is well-cared for, safe and happy.

“When they say, ‘thank you,’ ‘I love you’ or give you a hug, it is just very rewarding,” she said. “I love being able to help.”

Her best experiences have come in the form of making friends with residents and coworkers. The life-long relationships she has built have a priceless value.

The Challenges

The most difficult experience Shari faces at her job is when a resident passes away.

“It is really, really difficult to come into work knowing you lost someone so close to your heart,” she said. “Losing someone here is like losing a family member.”

Another challenge she faces is trying to understand each resident’s communication needs.

“I know they’re trying to tell me something, but I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said. Shari has spent many hours trying to understand what residents are saying to her.

How To Be The Best Caregiver

Shari understands that the decision to move into an assisted-living community can be difficult, whether it is the choice of a resident or the family of a resident, so she tries to make the residents’ transitions as easy as possible.

“You’re taking care of their parents,” she said. “When I hear, ‘thank you for taking care of my mother/father,’ it’s very rewarding.”

Showing residents respect at all times is one way that Shari gets along so well with the staff and residents at Valley VNA.

“These people demand respect,” she said. “They’re older and have seen much more than we have in life. You have to learn to give respect in order to get it. Once you get that respect from them, a strong bond is formed.”

Tips To Future Caregivers

Shari said that if someone wants to become a caregiver, they have to keep a few things in mind.

One, remember that caregivers are there to support the residents at all times by providing the best care.

Two, it is a rewarding job, but it’s also emotional and stressful. But at the end of the work day, you leave knowing that you’ve made a difference in another person’s life. She said she sleeps easier at night knowing that she’s making a difference.

Shari loves working with the great residents, co workers, nurses and management at Valley VNA. The small, tight-knit group makes her happy to come into work everyday.