This week Caring Senior Service shines the spotlight on Ruby Smith, a caregiver in on our Caring Senior Service of Nashville office. In this interview, Mrs. Smith discusses how she came to care for seniors and why she feels it's a ministry.
Can you tell a little bit about yourself?
I am 72. I am originally from a small town called Guthrie, Kentucky that’s in Todd County, Kentucky. … But I consider myself a native Tennessean because the little town was split into two parts and we were in the Tennessee part.
How long have you been a caregiver?
It’ll be 9 years December the 12th.
How long have you been with Caring Senior Service?
"I really look at
this as a ministry."
What inspired you to become a caregiver?
Early on in life I was taken national to go to school to be a LVN and then some financial situations got in my way and I didn't’ finish it, I later went to (Mohair) to get a piece of paper that allowed me to be a nurse assistant … I wanted to work in private homes, I didn’t pick a hospital setting because back then I was afraid of people dying. I’d cry, everybody would be crying. I was just very compassionate about everything… but once I got my little piece of paper I went into private homes and I took care of people and I really enjoyed that. Then I decided to go to business school. So I worked with the Metropolitan Governor for 40 years and retired. About the third year after I retired a friend of mine said come work for Caring Senior Service. I needed a little extra money for my granddaughter… So I signed up and two or three days later they called me on a Sunday morning and asked if I could go take care of a patient, he was a doctor. I took care of him for four years and then his wife for three after he died. … He had dementia but it wasn’t bad. She had Alzheimer’s and it was getting pretty advanced. So when I first got there she was a little jealous because I was doing everything for her husband but then she finally gave in and by this point they had put her on Caring Senior Service too. So I was really taking care of two but she didn’t require a lot at the time. The main thing was fixing his meals and making sure he didn’t fall because he had a fear of falling. So I took care of him for four years and then her for an additional three after she died. That's how I got into Caring Senior Service.
Are there any significant challenges you had to overcome to get to where you are now?
No, I was always a people person and I live by the motto of my mom “Treat people the way you want to be treated,” which is the golden rule I understand. When I meet people I meet them on their level. I see the good in them until the bad smacks me straight dab in the face. When I go into people's homes I have no preconceived ideas if someone else has been there and tells me stuff I have to figure it out for myself. I think that way I form a good rapport right away because I’m not going in with no preconceived ideas about what this is going to be like.
What has been your favorite story/experience since working with Caring Senior Service?
Something that came to mind is the doctor, my first patient. Like I said he had dementia and he would get so depressed because he had taught at Meharry Medical school for like 25 years and he was so depressed about not being able to teach. He was getting older. He was so depressed about the children of Nashville not getting into the sciences and the math. And he’d get real depressed about it and I'd talk about it and we’d sit down and write what we thought might work but it never went anywhere so he kept getting depressed. I decided to pull back on my faith. So I got the bible and asked him if I could read him a few passages of scripture and he said yes. So when he’d get depressed I’d continue to do that. His favorite scripture is Matthew 21 … I would definitely read that passage to him. When they had his funeral, his son asked me what passage I read to his dad and I told him … to me I feel like I ministered to him when he really needed it. And he also asked me about what I thought was going to happen afterwards. Now this man is about 20 years my senior, but he’s asking me about what I thought we should be doing to get to the other side or to see what the other side is like… That was one of my greatest experiences with him. If you ask my favorite patient, he was really my favorite patient.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a caregiver?
Seeing patients react after I’ve said something to them or helped them with their bath or just seeing them smile and how they’ll pat your hand and say "thank you. That means so much to me. It makes you feel like you have really did a great job. We use the word help too much. (To know) that you have really made a person feel better about themselves for that day, that’s what keeps me going.
What is the most challenging thing about being a caregiver?
This is kind of off cuff. I have problems sometimes, we all do some things different, but I’m really careful about how I talk to my patients and how I treat them. And coming behind some caregivers I don’t necessarily like the way they talk or how they necessarily keep the patients or do things for them. I mean I know we all got our isms. I feel like it’s a ministry for me and that I’m really just truly here to help the person. If they didn’t need me, I would not be here. Some people I fall behind act like they’re being paid just to be here and I don’t like that… When you come into a patient you got to have no preconceived ideas. You have to judge for yourself. The trust level has been formed.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to become a caregiver?
I would say if you’re going to be a caregiver you got to get out of yourself. You got to know what you’re doing. You have to be compassionate to our people. You can’t talk to them any type of way. You’ve got to be a compassionate person and to really want to do this. It’s not something you come into lightly. You have to really want to do this and do it for the right reasons and not for the money. You really are a servant, but that’s not the word. You come into here to take care of people and help people and you have to come in with an open mind and do your very best in regards to the circumstance, or else you don’t need to be here.
Really I look at this as a ministry… They’re at the end of life, a lot of people, it’s rewarding to them and it’s rewarding to me too.
Everyone here at Caring Senior Service National Headquarters would like to thank Ruby and officially recognize her for the service she provides to Caring Senior Service of Nashville and the seniors in her community. Ruby we hope you enjoy the Acer Chromebook Laptop we sent you, its our way of saying thank you as we celebrate 25 years of helping seniors!