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Caregiver Spotlight: Carol Ashley-Thomas

Ms. Carol Ashley-Thomas, CNA and caregiver with TheKey, shares the journey, insights, and lessons of her career.

TheKey caregiver Carol Ashley-Thomas.

This caregiver spotlight shines on Ms. Carol Ashley-Thomas, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and caregiver with TheKey in Houston, Texas, USA. For 12 years, she has been a valuable member of TheKey’s caregiving team. Her journey into caregiving, her deep sense of empathy, and her unwavering commitment to her clients make her an inspiring, remarkable person. In this spotlight, we celebrate Ms. Ashley-Thomas and her exceptional contributions to senior care.

A Natural Calling: From Family Caregiver to Professional

Ms. Ashley-Thomas’ journey in caregiving is a testament to the transformative power of personal experiences. Her path began not as a profession but as a personal journey, caring for her mother. This firsthand experience gave her a deep understanding of seniors’ needs and challenges, instilling profound empathy for seniors in need.

Before pursuing a career in caregiving and joining TheKey, Ms. Ashley-Thomas stepped in to assist a friend with caring for their elderly client. The connection was immediate—the client enjoyed her company, and Ms. Ashley-Thomas found fulfillment in helping him. This experience solidified her passion for the caregiving profession, and she soon embarked on her CNA training before formally entering the professional world of caregiving.

The Heart of Caregiving: Patience, Empathy, and Connection

Ms. Ashley-Thomas’s approach to caregiving is centered around patience, empathy, and building genuine connections with her clients. She understands seniors’ challenges, and her days are filled with assisting clients with daily tasks such as preparing meals, getting ready for the day, encouraging movement, safely assisting those with mobility difficulties, and attending to basic medical needs.

Her care extends far beyond the physical. She believes that, for many clients, companionship and having someone to share experiences with is an important part of their care. For her, the most rewarding aspect of caregiving is connecting with her clients personally. She cherishes listening to their rich life stories and histories and takes the time to learn about their interests and routines, incorporating them into their care plans. Whether it’s watching sports with a client who’s a sports enthusiast or grabbing ice cream with another who has a sweet tooth, these small gestures create moments of joy and connection.

Cooking is another joy for Ms. Ashley-Thomas, and her signature Jamaican dishes are a big hit for clients and their families. When sharing meals with clients, food becomes more than sustenance; it provides comfort, happiness, and nourishment for the body and soul.

Facing Challenges with Compassion and Grace

Caregiving has challenges, and Ms. Ashley-Thomas leans on her faith for guidance and support. “I pray before I meet with a new client, asking for strength and for us to have a good day,” she says. Ms. Ashley-Thomas acknowledges that mobility issues and resistance to care can be obstacles for people who previously lived independently and cared for themselves. In situations like these, her patience and understanding shine through. She employs gentle persuasion, clear communication, and a focus on the client’s well-being to overcome these hurdles. For example, when a client resists eating, she emphasizes the importance of healthy eating habits.

She shares that she wants to make her clients smile when they’re feeling down, and do her best to stay calm and reassure them to help them navigate the more difficult moments. She gently encourages clients to think positively when she notices them struggling with the more challenging physical and emotional aspects of aging.

Similarly, when working with grieving clients or families coping with loss, Ms. Ashley-Thomas offers compassion. She draws on her own experiences with the loss of her parents to empathize with families and visits memorials with them, providing a comforting shoulder to lean on during difficult times.

Advice for New Caregivers

For new caregivers, Ms. Ashley-Thomas is a beacon of wisdom and guidance. She emphasizes the importance of patience, not just with clients but also with themselves. Her advice to new caregivers is to listen to their agencies and colleagues and to take the time to understand the scope of care they’ll provide.

When asked about the qualities of a great caregiver, Ms. Ashley-Thomas offers a simple yet powerful answer: a good listener, a caring soul, and an abundance of patience. She explains that building connections with clients is key, as some clients may initially appear apprehensive due to the personal nature of caregiving. She makes sure that her clients know that she is there for their benefit and well-being, and stays patient when things are hard.

She stresses the importance of getting to know each client and taking the time to understand their preferences and challenges, emphasizing that great caregivers take the time to understand their clients’ unique needs and preferences and foster strong relationships built on mutual respect and trust.

Advice for Families Beginning Home Care

For families seeking the right caregiver for their loved ones, Ms. Ashley-Thomas emphasizes the importance of careful research. She advises families to know who they’re hiring for their loved one, and make sure they hire an agency or caregiver that best suits their loved one’s wants and needs. She also says choosing an agency that provides thorough assessments, tours, and the opportunity to meet caregivers is important for finding a good fit. For families looking for a reliable, trustworthy caregiver, she recommends families take the time to observe:

● How the caregivers treat their clients
● Whether the agency or care home asks questions about their loved one’s preferences and needs
● What the care options are, and how well the options suit their loved one

Celebrating Humanity

Ms. Ashley-Thomas’ dedication to senior care is not just a job but a calling. She is a vocal advocate for fair treatment of seniors, emphasizing the richness of their life experiences, the wisdom they hold, and their fundamental humanity. Her unique perspective—gained from witnessing the aging process firsthand—has instilled in her a greater appreciation for the value of time and the importance of cherishing each moment. She reminds us that age is a universal truth, and the respect and care we show our elders today reflects the way we wish to be treated when we are older.

Making Their Day a Better Day

Carol Ashley-Thomas embodies the true spirit of caregiving, encapsulating the essence of caregiving in her own words: “I’m here to make their day a better day.” Her story is a testament to the power of empathy and patience, and her dedication and compassion make her a shining example for all of us. She finds immense support in her supervisors and managers at TheKey, who have been instrumental in her professional journey and provide guidance and resources when needed.

Here at TheKey, we are inspired by her dedication, kindness, and the many lives she has touched with her heart-filled care. If you or your loved one are seeking in-home caregiving services, contact TheKey today.