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“When you’re a caregiver, your heart has to be in it. When you’re there for them and you care about them, everything you do helps make their life better. You’re there to give them the best quality of life,” says Nikki Merrifield, care manager at Anthology of Louisville.

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Although Nikki Merrifield’s professional background is in early childhood education, she brings her skillset to her role as a care manager at Anthology of Louisville. Her enthusiasm, energy, and patience served her well when she worked with young children in the past, and these traits continue to serve her with assisted living residents. “I love the very young and the very old,” she says.

What do you do as a caregiver?

My job is to come to work to love on and support my residents by giving them the best possible care I can. I enjoy making them smile and laugh, but on a hard day, I’m a listening ear and a hug if needed. I’m checking up on them. If needed I’m giving showers, I’m doing laundry, or I’m helping get them to bed since I work second-shift. It is individual based on each resident and their level of care. 

What traits do caregivers need to have?

I’m very much a people person. I think if you are a “sit-behind-the-desk” person, this is not the job for you. It’s a busy job, and there’s a lot of work involved. There are multiple tasks you have to complete during your shift. You have to have compassion and patience. I’m very energetic, and I’m constantly on the move with this job. You have to be very loving as well. Caregiving is never just an 8-hour shift.

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How do you support residents and their families?

Being the consistent person for your residents is a good thing because it builds trust. I’m a consistent face and person they see. I’m a listening ear [for families]. Sometimes supporting a family can include being a comfort at the end-of-life stage, even attending a visitation or a funeral.

What are some challenges of being a caregiver?

Sometimes it is hard to figure out what a resident is communicating, especially if they are frustrated. You have to be a listening ear and have time. You have to sit down and take the time to listen. Because you’ve built relationships, end of life is a hard thing to deal with when you have to let them go.

How do you care for yourself to ensure you’re a good caregiver to others?

I’m a night owl; I’m not a morning person. I enjoy sleeping and spending time with friends. Everyone at work knows I’m a beach person, and that’s my relaxation. When I’m going on vacation, I’m going to the beach. The beach refreshes me and allows me to come back as an all-new person. It gives me the rest I need.

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