“We Need Help” February 28, 2017
Theresa Greenwood-Johnson, Leavenworth
For Theresa Greenwood-Johnson, caregiving runs through her blood. Her grandmother was a caregiver, as is Theresa, and her daughter is also continuing the tradition. For Theresa, being a home care provider is about the sense of herself that she gets from being able to help people everyday and know that she is making a difference. Although she could make more money doing office work, her heart is in caregiving. Her gift is being able to make anyone she interacts with feel safe and comfortable even in situations many would find embarrassing, such as bathing. This is a skill that she holds near and dear to her heart as she knows that sometimes something as simple as a shower can be a gift that allows people the chance at a fresh start.
She took her caregiving superhero powers on the road in 2014 when she went to care for her dad in New Mexico, using up her life savings in the process. He had Social Security and savings, but it wasn’t enough to cover the cost of long-term care. At the time she had been living and working in California for 40 years, but when her father’s hospital trip turned into an extended stay she packed her bags to help him with meals, wound care, bathing, grooming, and cleanup as he recovered from a blood infection and a broken femur. Being her father’s caregiver was very difficult emotionally, physically and even more financially.
As her father began to heal and gain independence, and her funds were running dry she moved to Washington to be closer to her aunt and uncle. When she first moved her she drove 800 miles a week for a year to caregiving jobs, but now she is starting to find more work stability. She is also celebrating her 7 month anniversary with her new husband, and keeping in contact with her children who live all along the West Coast. However, she is unable to have a long-term care plan for herself, simply because she can’t afford to do so on a caregiver’s salary. The savings she was able to do during her 40 years in California was depleted while caring for her father, and while she continues to work hard there is little more she can do. While she worked so hard to provide for her children and ensure her father is cared for there is simply no way. Her father’s care needs are also growing and she knows that he needs more than he’s getting. She wants her legislature to know, “we need help.”