Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Toni Ayers joined the VNA as a Hospice Care Aide last fall and has been enjoying seeing patients ever since. Learn more about her diverse career background and her unique journey back to hospice care after leaving the field for many years.
Having raised two sons with autism, Toni Ayers has been a natural caregiver nearly her whole life. She’s familiar with the toll caregiving can take on caregivers and ultimately the whole family when they don’t put themselves first. “We always feel guilty, but you’ll actually feel better if you take that time out for yourself,” she says.
Given her personal experience, it’s understandable that she would find herself working in a field as nurturing as hospice, however, her path to the field wasn’t exactly linear. Toni initially joined the hospice field in her early adulthood, before leaving to join the food industry. Though she enjoyed her time as a chef, she ended up returning to hospice care 15 to 20 years later - this time, with more life experience that allowed her to further relate to patients and gave her stronger appreciation for the field.
Upon returning, Toni found that things in hospice had changed for the better. “I like the field a lot better now. I’ve found that the level of care has improved over the years. Now that technology has advanced as it has, important patient information can be transferred in an instant, which allows for more time with patients,” she says.
That time with patients is what Toni has always valued, and in her new role as a Hospice Care Aide with the VNA, she gets to spend more time with patients in their own homes, building personal connections that make that end-of-life period even more special. “A lot of what I’m doing involves personal tasks like bathing and showering, so I really make the effort to make patients feel comfortable. In this role, the demeanor and personableness is very important,” she says.
Though she enjoys these home visits, she acknowledges the unpredictability they can bring. “For myself, the biggest challenge would be that you never know what situation you're walking into. Patients may be having a bad day, or something may’ve happened within the family dynamics before you walked in the house, but it’s something that you learn to navigate in time,” she says.
Toni also credits the many VNA trainings that offer new perspectives on care that add to her own wealth of information she’s gathered over the years. One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is that individuality is important to respect at all stages of life. “Everyone’s approach to the end of life is individual. Some are ready, some are fighting it, some are not sure what’s happening, but it depends on the individual person,” she says.
She encourages families to remember that their loved ones are not children, even if they have reverted back to that loss of independence in some ways.
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