An Interview with a Great Caregiver: Deborah Ingram

By Michelle Cemental

This week as we reflect on 25 years of serving seniors and their families, Caring Senior Service shines the spotlight on Deborah Ingram, a caregiver in on our Caring Senior Service of Charleston office. In this interview, Deborah discusses how she was inspired to become a caregiver for the seniors in her area.

Can you tell a little bit about yourself? 
I am 54. I’ve lived in West Virginia since about 1974. I got into elder care and worked in long-term care for 22 years and now I’m with Caring Senior Services. I have dedicated my life to the senior population due to my grandparents raising me and this was my thank you to them. They took good care of me and that’s why I’m in long-term care. I can’t leave it! It’s my first love.

Is Charleston, WV your Hometown? 
My hometown is Sparta, TN. Been located in Charleston, WV, since 2001.

Deborah IngramHow long have you been a caregiver?
Since 1991. I lived in Wheeling, West Virginia, and I went to a town called Mountainville, West Virginia, and took my training for CNAs and that is when I started my long-time, long-life career, up until now, of caregiving. I’ve worked all shifts. I’ve worked on specialty floors. I’ve done about all of it: I’ve done in-home care, private care, on my own, back to the nursing home. Now, I’m with Caring Senior Services and I really like it. I like the one-on-one. I take extra special notice of my clients. I did that at the nursing home, too, but it’s harder when you have thirty residents. So, now that I only have one, you can pay more attention to one than thirty. That’s pretty hard in an eight hour day.

How long have you been with Caring Senior Service?
Three years. I worked privately on my own and my client went back to the nursing home and so I just applied. I found the number and I called Leisa and she interviewed me. Actually, I think I was their very first employee when they started up their business. My client now, she is my first, so we’ve accomplished this relationship. We get along pretty good. There can be rough days, but I’ve been with them since the first day. It’s been kind of cool.

"I just do my 110 percent every day because these people are like my grandparents."

What inspired you to become a caregiver?

My maternal grandparents raised me from the age of 2 to the age of 12 and [Deborah starts to cry] I just want to do something to honor them and thank them for the care that they gave me and I just do my 110 percent every day because these people are like my grandparents. My grandmother ended up in a nursing home... but she was very well taken care of but… it was just the thank you of all their hard work and dedication to me. I’ve tried other careers and I can’t get out of this. I always come back. I’ve tried other populations in the health care business. I always come back to my elders. It’s... I guess, a calling. Like, you know. My grandparents, I wanted to honor them and say thanks to them because they’re gone now. I treat these people like I want mine to be treated. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Like… A story I have of when I first got started. You know, you have to have a job, you have to have money. Once I started getting into …. This gentlemen didn’t speak, he just looked at you. He had Alzheimer's. I actually think he was hit by a tractor trailer or something, but anyway. He was one of the ten smartest men in America. He had a magazine with his picture on the cover. He couldn’t talk but I just kept talking to him. Well, one night, he started talking, he told me, he told me his home phone number to call his wife. He was hungry. All I had to do was go fix him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he was happy. He said he wanted some reading material. I gave him some reading material and he was happy. My whole perspective changed after that experience. You know, you never know when they’re going to have a moment like that. You have to be ready for it. I had another client that I would just look at the Kroger ad with and show her the pictures. I got her. I told her grandson, look, you give me all spring and I guarantee I’ll have her walking to that picture window. Spring came and I had her walking to the picture window looking at her azaleas. He called me all the way from Colorado and said, “I’m so sorry I doubted you. You have been wonderful with my grandmother.” I try my best on an everyday basis. You never know when they’re gonna have those moment. You never know. 

Are there any significant challenges you had to overcome to get to where you are now?
No. I just worked hard. I work a lot of hours and I just do the best that I can do on a daily basis. I know what I can do, I know my limitations. That was one of the things… When you’re in a nursing home and down a skill hall and have nurses following you, that was a challenge. If you’re in a facility, the skilled was a challenge because it made me very nervous. You learn to overcome that. Also, when I lost my first client. It was terrible, the first one. The last one wasn’t any better, but you just deal with it and go on. My mom passed at 59 years old, 15 years ago, of cancer. We were all there. She was very very proud of me for taking care of the elderly. 

What has been your favorite story/experience since working with Caring Senior Service?
Being able to make my clients happy. Making their day a little brighter, seeing them laugh and have a great time. You know. ‘ hard to see them go down hill but my favorite moments are when they’re smiling, having something to eat, make sure they have what they like and just seeing them happy and taking them where they want to go or doing what they want to do or just laughing. At my job here, that’s what we do, we go out a lot. That makes her happy. Doing what makes her happy is my goal. It can be challenging at times. I’m not going to say it’s been perfectly easy. We get through it. I understand. There is some bad time, but mostly it’s laughs and making her days a lot better.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a caregiver?
Before I came to caring senior services I was going to start my own little business like this. But my reward is the working hard. I’m a hands-on girl. I love my clients. I’d like to have more and everything but I just... right now I just like making them happy and that’s where I like to be - with my clients.

What is the most challenging thing about being a caregiver?
You’re not in it for the money because you don’t make really good money unless you’re high up. The caregiver is like the backbone. In 22 years, I’ve never been noticed for the work I’ve done. I’ve been told a couple of times. I guess you do get noticed at times you just don’t know it. You got to always be prepared. I don’t brag about what I do. I just do what I know to do. I’m so honored with this caregiving thing [referring to the award].

What advice would you offer to someone looking to become a caregiver?
I would tell them to learn to listen to their clients needs. Learn what their needs are and then always give 110 percent.  Connect with them, and they’ll connect with you. Always listen and be ready for that moment. You have to be ready and give them the utmost respect.

Any closing thoughts?
I'm very humbled and honored to represent my company. I try to do that very well on a daily basis, not to make myself look good. I’m not only working for myself, I’m working for my client, for my company and myself. So I try to represent all three each day. And I don’t do it to get a thank you but I’m very, very honored to have been chosen for this.

Everyone here at Caring Senior Service National Headquarters would like to thank Deborah and officially recognize her for the service she provides to Caring Senior Service of Charleston and the seniors in her community. Deborah we hope you enjoy the Samsung Galaxy Tablet we sent you, its our way of saying thank you as we celebrate 25 years of helping seniors!

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