After a long day working as a nurse in the early 2000s, Marie Perry would come home to care for her two small children and her father-in-law, who was living with Alzheimer’s.
While Marie’s husband looked after his father during the daytime, he did not feel comfortable with some tasks like bathing him. Marie’s professional experience as a nurse made it easier for her to help.
But working full-time, raising a family and caring for an aging adult can become overwhelming. Eventually, they found her father-in-law a good care facility where he could be happy for his remaining years.
Years later, Marie and her family also became full-time caregivers for her mother when she became sick with cancer.
“My mom had always lived very independently,” Marie said. “But as the cancer progressed, she became afraid to live on her own. So she came for the weekends. And then stay another day. And another day. Until eventually, she just stayed.”
Marie ended up hiring an agency to help with her mom for a few hours during the day so she could at least have four solid hours to concentrate on her work.
In both cases, it never occurred to Marie to seek out a volunteer.
Giving to other families
That’s why at age 65, despite continuing to work fulltime, Marie helps out as a relief care volunteer for Heart2Heart.
“I think my experience is what draws me to provide this kind of care,” Marie said. “Because to be around your family 24/7, it can grind on the family but also on the patient. It’s good to have a break for the mental health of all parties.”
Marie volunteers on Thursdays after work in the home of one man who was being cared for almost exclusively by his ex-wife.
The older man is confined to a hospital bed. No one had ever shown the ex-wife how to give him a bath.
“The woman was so grateful,” Marie said. “I showed her how to change the bed with him in it, keep it dry, change the linens — all while he’s in bed.”
A lifetime of love for seniors
Marie, who has been a nurse for over 40 years, has always enjoyed working with the senior population.
“I started volunteering as a Pinkie – or Candy Striper – as a teenager back in the 60s. We were allowed to work in hospitals, delivering tissues to patients or filling up their water bottles,” Marie said.
From there, she worked as a certified nursing assistant over the summers, providing companionship to elderly patients. She later became a registered nurse, first working in hospitals and then in managed care and in leadership roles during the 1980s and 1990s.
But she missed working bedside, especially with seniors. So in 2006, she started working in the Memorial Healthcare System as a case manager.
A heart for volunteering
In addition to Heart2Heart, Marie volunteers a lot through the hospital system. She’s helped with fundraisers, sewed masks during COVID, and visited Broward Outreach with her family to serve the homeless on Thanksgiving.
In fact, Marie’s volunteer efforts were noticed at work, and she recently was honored with one of its Hero of the Day awards.
You don’t have to be a nurse to be a hero to a family. Relief care can be as simple as watching TV with a senior or chatting over coffee while the family member gets some time to themselves.
“Respite care is so important because the child becomes the caregiver to the parent,” Marie said. “It can get overwhelming, so they call Heart2Heart to get some relief.”
Sign up to become a relief care volunteer today!