Shared by Diane Kerrigan
Tell us about how your career in elder care got started.
My career in elder care started long before I ever wanted to work in this field. My mother used to take me and my siblings to nursing homes for visits, especially around the holidays, and we would bring residents flowers and cookies or chocolates. My "job" was to walk around and let residents select items from a tray or box. I was somewhat clumsy as a child and had a few incidents of tripping and the items would go flying and pelting residents sitting in their wheelchairs, but they would always laugh and assure me it was fine. Despite these accidents they appeared to enjoy these visits and it made me aware of elders in a new way.
Later I had a paper route as a young teen. On that route I had an elderly lady who had no living family. She was unable to get out and services for elders were not yet available. She always made a point to speak to me every day and would ask me to do small errands for her. I eventually realized that I was the only contact she had with anyone and would stop and have tea with her every afternoon and talk. One day she didn't meet me at the door so I started knocking and I could hear her yelling out from a back room. I went in and found her on the floor. I called her doctor and an ambulance and waited until she had help. It bothered me to realize the possible consequences if I did not check on her. I felt a responsibility to watch out for her and continued to do so until she was unable to remain at home.
My mom always used to say I was a born social worker but I disagreed and said I was just nosy and could not help getting involved. I managed to resist the call to social work until my youngest child started school and I decided I wanted a career. I realized I really did want to work in some capacity of social service and while attending college completed two internships. The first was at the senior center in Clinton, which I enjoyed very much and then at JFS Worcester (now JF&CS) and found it was a good fit. I was offered a position at the end of my internship and have been learning and growing ever since.
What is one of your fondest memories from your time at the agency?
Holiday celebrations that were shared by all the staff are my favorite memories. At one time the staff was much larger and a mix of several religions and we would have a holiday party and do a Yankee swap. Everyone would bring a dish and there was a lot of laughter and joking but, most importantly, gave a different perspective of people you worked with in fun way.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
In the US, I love the southwest and visiting friends and family there. I enjoy Arizona and have seen different areas of the Grand Canyon. Outside the US would be England to learn about its history and for my interest in the cottages and old inns.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received and who gave it to you?
Be kind to others in words and actions. My mother had a lot of patience and few rules. But the rules she did insist on were no name calling, swearing, or racial slurs of any kind. She would always point out how it would feel to be on the other end of harsh words or deeds and tried to instill in us the idea you should not judge others because you don't know their circumstances. She had a great love for people and felt anyone could change if they found the right path.
The older I get the more I believe she was right. Kindness takes many forms and is the basis for many of the good deeds done in this world. At the very least, I have never regretted anything I have done in trying to be kind to others.
What's your favorite dessert?
Favorite? So many choices, so little time. If I had to pick one, it would be apple crisp.