‘We have a job to do’: Schenectady home health aide puts clients first

Kingsway Home Care Service nurses Shannon Catucci, left, Farra Foster, and LaDonna Johnson in Schenectady on Wednesday.

Kingsway Home Care Service nurses Shannon Catucci, left, Farra Foster, and LaDonna Johnson in Schenectady on Wednesday.

As a home health aide, LaDonna Johnson’s biggest concern is for her clients.

“I always say,” Johnson said, “that I get my blessings from being a blessing to someone else.”

In the past nine months, doing her duties with Schenectady’s Kingsway Home Care Service in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson’s work has taken on added significance.

For the elderly clients she cares for, she’s not just a health aide. She’s one of their few — if only — sources of companionship during a period defined by extended isolation.

“They’re basically isolated from the whole world,” Johnson said. “So when we go in, it’s important that we spend that time with them, because we become part of their family at that point.”

For those clients’ families Johnson is a lifeline, often their only way to check in with elderly relatives they’re not able to see out of concerns brought on by the virus.

That was the case for one of her clients, whose only daughter was unable to help care for her mother while also dealing with her own work and taking care of her family.

Johnson’s role allowed her to step in and build that crucial trust.

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“Once I came into the picture,” Johnson said, “and she realized that I had it under control — her mom trusted me, we had a good relationship — it became easier for her.

“It’s not just about our clients. It’s about the whole family. Once they trust you and they know that somebody’s there, it takes a big load off of them as well.”

Johnson has been in the medical field since 1998, and has been a home health aide since 2015, four years after moving to Schenectady from Tennessee.

She’s never seen anything like what the world has been forced to deal with in 2020.

There have been mounting challenges. Conversations that would previously have been held in person are now conducted via Zoom. In helping to raise her grandchildren, Johnson’s also taken on another role as a home-school teacher.

But she’s let none of that detract from her duty to clients.

“We have a job to do,” she said. “We can’t let anything that’s going on stop us from being there for our client. We have to do the best we can to follow what the guidelines are and do what we have to do, so we get it done.”

With more than two decades of experience working in the health care field, Johnson is more than used to abiding by strict sanitization and safety measures.

In a world where mask-wearing and rigorous hand-washing have become everyday habits, Johnson never questioned any enhanced procedures that were necessary to keep herself, her clients and her family back at home, safe and healthy.

“In this line of work it’s expected,” she said. “Just like in a hospital. You have to consider, when you go to work, you have to protect those people just as well as you have to protect yourself and those at home. You follow the guidelines, do what’s expected of you, whether you’re on the clock or not.

“Because at the end of the day, we are the ones making sure that we’re safe. But our safety reflects on their safety as well.”

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The job is stressful and often difficult in an ever-changing landscape, but Johnson keeps focus with a strategy of taking things “one day at a time” in order not to get overwhelmed.

It’s the least she can do to help keep the lives of her elderly charges as comfortable and peaceful as possible.

“This is why you do this type of work,” she said, “just to know that you made a difference in somebody’s life. It’s even more important when you’re working with elderly people, because these are their golden years, and what we do for them makes them a little more at peace with the way things are going and what they have to deal with. Being there for them is just as important for us as it is for them.”

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, News, Schenectady County

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