In the February Fountain: Carver honored for caring for seniors ‘like family’
By Valerie Putnam
Working with the elderly can be a challenging profession. For Arlene Carver, it's her passion.
"I fell in love with this business," said Carver, who works at Evergreen Fountains Senior Living Community as a medication tech. "These people are wonderful."
Carver's dedication, compassion and sense of humor recently earned her the 2013 Washington Health Care Association's (WHCA) Chapter 10 Caregiver of the Year Award. Carver received the award - which included a trophy, certificate and $500 cash - in mid-December at a dinner held at the Davenport Hotel.
"People here love her," said Donna Kembel, Evergreen Fountains director of nursing. "The residents tell me about Arlene and how they feel like it's one of their family taking care of them."
Kembel nominated Carver for the award, saying her extensive knowledge and experience in the business as well as her kindness and deep faith set her apart.
"I feel every person that meets her gets touched by God," Kembel said. "It is unusual and rare in this day and age."
Last year was the first time WHCA gave out this award.
"It is a new program to honor those who care for some of our most vulnerable," WHCA's senior director of member services, Brenda Orffer, said by email.
WHCA received more than 25 nominations from the Chapter 10 region, which includes Spokane, Pullman and Colville.
"Arlene Carver stood out because her nomination included the fact that almost every thank you card received by her community specifically mentions her name," Orffer said. "They also talked about the creative ways Arlene works with residents."
Orffer recounted an example of Carver reading to a woman who loves books but went blind.
"(She) exerts every possible ounce of energy into her work to make the lives of those she cares for the best it can be," Orffer said.
Kembel also related a recent example of Carver's compassion as a resident's health was failing. Carver would go in at night to sit and hold her hand.
"She would pray for her," Kembel said. "Arlene is one of the few here that will take the time. It's like this is her family, and that's rare, too. People can say that, but Arlene lives it."
For Carver, watching a resident's health fail is the greatest challenge.
"They're like family," Carver said. "When something happens, you go through the pain of losing someone."
Through each challenge and heartache, Carver keeps a positive outlook on life. She looks for opportunities to inject humor in each situation, whether helping new residents adjust to their surroundings or brightening a resident's day.
"Just to be able to give them a little smile or a little happiness is worthwhile because some of the residents don't have family," Carver said. "A lot of them have lost their spouses and given up their homes."
Kembel remembers Carver applying her sense of humor to lift the spirits of a resident restricted to a feeding tube.
"She would take his tube feeding up on a silver tray and say, 'We're having chicken Cordon Bleu tonight' - and he would laugh," Kembel said.
As a medication tech, Carver administers medicine at different times during her shift. She also provides general care to residents.
"We help people do the things they can't do themselves, and encourage them to do the things that they can to keep their independence," Carver said.
Carver got into the health care business in 2005. At the time her mother's health was failing, and she wanted to learn how to care for her.
"I was just hoping if she lived a long time and needed my care, I would know how to do it," Carver said.
After passing a six-week course for health care professionals, Carver passed the Washington State competency exam to be Nursing Assistant - Certified (NAC).
Carver took care of her mother in the mornings and worked at Windriver House, an assisted care facility located in North Spokane, in the afternoons.
"It worked out great," said Carver, whose mother passed away in 2007. "She was able to stay home until the last."
In 2009, Carver learned about Evergreen Fountains from a former co-worker who was working at the facility.
"She said, 'Arlene this is a fantastic place,'" Carver said. "Come check it out. So I did and got hired the same day that I came."
Though Carver was honored to win the caregiver award for helping others, she has found something in her work she considers much greater.
"It's fun helping people," Carver said. "But in a sense, they're helping me. I don't have my parents anymore, but I have all these other family members."