by Gary Moore, Information Officer, California Veterans Home – Redding
People who know Nicole Ellis describe her as dedicated, compassionate and caring. Those words are commonly used in reference to CalVet’s nursing staff, however, Ellis is known for going above and beyond the norm. That is why it comes as no surprise that she was recently named Outstanding Caregiver for Spring 2018 by the California Assisted Living Association (CALA).
Ellis, a certified nursing assistant/ medical technician at the California Veterans Home — Redding, received the award June 4th , during the association’s spring conference in Sacramento. She was recognized for her commitment to providing outstanding, quality care and service to residents.
Driven by a desire to serve those who have served our country, she has shown a special ability to create a sense of safety and calm for residents who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ellis’ attention to detail and commitment to getting to know the preferences of each person she cares for enable her to deliver truly individualized care.
This attention to detail extends to the family members of residents as well. For instance, when family members reserved a room to celebrate a resident’s 99th birthday recently, they arrived to find that Ellis had already prepared and decorated the room. This allowed them to focus on spending quality time with their loved one.
We sat down with Ellis to discuss this well-deserved honor.
How does it feel to be the 2018 recipient of the CALA Outstanding Caregiver Award?
I didn’t know something like this existed. It takes a village and I think people in the caregiving business all deserve an award like this.
One of the criteria for nomination for the Outstanding Caregiver Award has to do with the “wow” factor. What is your wow factor?
I care deeply and I put 150 percent into these residents. They are like family to me. I just want to give the best care to them while they are here and if I am able to make a difference in their life by making this feel like a home, then I am here for them. If I see that they are not getting the attention that they deserve, then I go out of my way to go above and beyond so they feel comfortable.
What drives you to go above and beyond expectations?
It’s how I feel when I leave at the end of the day. When I go home and I feel like I’ve made somebody else happy, made somebody else smile, made somebody else comfortable – then I can actually rest knowing that I’ve done a good job. I love what I do. I love caring for people and especially the veterans in this beautiful home. As a child, I was routinely taken to nursing homes. My grandmother worked at a nursing home and she worked with people with disabilities. I was kind of born with it and raised in that caring environment. All my life, my family has taken people in, clothed people and helped people. I was brought up that way and my family members were caregivers as well. I helped as a child and it made me feel good to see people smile, and to care and love for people and be there for people that couldn’t take care of themselves.
Tell us about some of the special relationships you have with residents here at the veterans home.
I feel like I have 50 grandmothers and grandfathers. I feel blessed. I feel honored. I feel spoiled. I come here every day and feel like I’m spending time with my grandma and grandpa. It takes me back to my childhood. That’s how I felt growing up. Times are different and people are different than they used to be, and a lot of our residents are set in their ways and are very private. I respect everybody’s differences and if I see someone who is closed off, I try to get them involved. If they stay closed off, I try to do a one-on-one with them, often privately. This is a very effective caregiving practice and when people notice, they feel the difference and really understand that I want to make them feel good.
You have a reputation in the veterans home of maintaining a consistently cheerful and friendly attitude, even on challenging days. How do you maintain your good spirits?
Life is what you make it. I never come to work with an attitude. I never bring my home life or my sadness or health issues or my family life or my friends life or any drama outside of life to work. I leave it at home. I know I can’t change the world, but if I can make a difference with friends, family and the residents here at the home, that makes a difference with me.
What does it take to be a qualified caregiver?
Some people are born with it and some are not. It’s all about understanding. The work ethic and the attitude one has will be the difference in understanding. It takes a special person to be a caregiver and I feel like I am that special person.
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