Cynthia McDonald originally thought her career would be spent as a schoolteacher, caring for the minds of young children. In 1976, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education. However, years later she found her true calling — providing in-home care for seniors with dementia, mobility issues and other limitations.
“Before being a caregiver, I worked at a preschool, taking care of 3-year-olds. Education was my background, and it made sense as a career path,” McDonald said. “In the end, I decided that I’d rather take care of one elderly person than 10 3-year-olds.”
Providing in-home care for seniors felt like a fit
After college, McDonald faced a difficult job market. When she was unable to secure a teaching position, she said she needed to get “real job with benefits.” So she worked at an insurance company for about 15 years until she began having children. She left the workforce for another 15 years while she raised her children.
In 2006, with her three kids now adults, McDonald looked to rejoin the working world. That’s when she got a job as a preschool teacher, and found that perhaps it wasn’t the right fit after all. So she became an in-home caregiver and has been providing senior care services in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania.
McDonald started working as a caregiver for Sunny Days In-Home Care in 2012. It has proved rewarding as she recently earned a nomination for the Pennsylvania Direct Care Worker of the Year Award. For this award, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging recognizes outstanding caregivers who provide home care for seniors. Pennsylvania is among the top 10 states with the highest percentage of residents 65 and older, and McDonald says the Pennsylvania Department of Aging serves 2.9 million people.
“Pennsylvania has a very old population. You think of Florida because that’s where all the snowbirds go, but Pennsylvania has a very high percentage of older individuals,” she said.
Even though her career took an unexpected turn, McDonald recognizes, and relishes, that much of what she does today mirrors similar characteristics that benefit a person as a teacher.
“Both education and caregiving are compassionate professions,” she said. “I thought caregiving would be perfect because I can help people, take them shopping, take them out to lunch, do some tasks for them. It’s a compassionate job, and it’s one that’s desperately needed. Much like teaching.”
Delights and difficulties while offering in-home care for seniors with dementia
Caring for individuals with health issues presents moments of difficulty, of course, especially when offering in-home care for seniors with dementia. A confused and scared client once called the police on McDonald, thinking was she an intruder. But McDonald takes incidents like this in stride.
“I’m very good at adjusting to people’s needs,” she said. “I think I’ve come in contact with every kind of client that you can imagine. As a caregiver, you’re always dealing with different personalities.”
Caregiving can be as rewarding as it is difficult, however. One of McDonald’s favorite memories was acting as a client’s sous chef. The woman’s husband suffered from dementia, and she enjoyed cooking Italian dishes with McDonald’s assistance. McDonald said they had a “wonderful relationship.”
Though compassionate caregivers are always needed to offer home care for seniors, McDonald said it takes a special kind of person to be able to do the job.
“It’s not for everyone. You have to have patience and compassion,” McDonald said. “That’s just the kind of person I am. It suits my personality.”
Connect with the best senior care services in Pittsburgh
Sunny Days In-Home Care provides experienced, compassionate caregivers who offer in-home care for elderly individuals in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. Call us at (724) 260-5186 or send us a message to find out how you can get a free consultation in your home.