Part of the Family

Part of the Family

February 21, 2017

Jennifer “Jenn” Velasquez doesn’t just care for seniors in the Glenmeadow community. She builds relationships with them and becomes part of the family.

That’s how Phyllis and Earl Winer, Glenmeadow residents, became Jenn’s “adoptive parents.” “We’ve been through a lot together,” says Jenn, a full-time certified nursing assistant (CNA) with Glenmeadow at Home. “I’ve been to their religious celebrations, and I’ve been to funerals with them. I’ve been to their birthday parties, and out to lunch and dinner with them.”

For a little over three years now, Jenn has cared for Phyllis Winer, first at the Winer’s home in Longmeadow, before the couple moved to Glenmeadow in 2014. Back then, Phyllis’ health was better, and Jenn and Phyllis could take walks together and have long conversations.

What Jenn provided to the couple at that time was companionship, help with household chores.

But a lot has changed since Phyllis’ health has declined. “I do everything for Phyllis now,” Jenn says, stressing that the bond she has with Phyllis guides her hand. “She depends on me for everything, and I know what she wants.

“The Winers are really grateful for the type of care I provide for Phyllis,” Jenn adds. “I treat her like I would want to be treated, the way I’d want my parents to be treated.”

Jenn provides care to Phyllis Winer through the Glenmeadow at Home program, through which care and assistance is offered to seniors across Western Massachusetts, whether they live in a private home, an assisted living community or right on the Glenmeadow campus.

In her work, Jenn offers personal care, as she does for Phyllis, and she also takes care of household chores such as cooking, cleaning or shopping. She drives people to doctor’s appointments and can take on larger, long-term projects, like down-sizing a home’s belongings.

Jenn says when she first started working with the Winers, she spent most of her time with Phyllis. Earl used the time to rest or leave the home to run errands or go on activities.

“Now I have a relationship with Earl as well,” Jenn says. “Earl and I kid around. He has a great sense of humor. We talk. I check up on him. And if I miss work or I’m out sick, he checks up on me!”

Jenn earned her CNA certification through Springfield Technical Community College. She was an early education teacher in South Hadley and Holyoke for 20 years before returning to school about four years ago at Westfield State University; she thought at that time she’d like to earn a teaching degree and work in special education.

Instead, Jenn became a personal care assistant at Glenmeadow, accessed Glenmeadow’s staff education fund and received a grant that allowed her to attain the CNA certification. She was pleased to work at Glenmeadow and changed the plan to further her formal education.

The mother of four, Jenn came on board full time at Glenmeadow in January. “I’m very happy about that,” she says. “The atmosphere here is so positive. It makes my work pleasant. The residents are wonderful, so that really helps.”

Jenn acknowledges that there are some whom she cares for whose health has changed them; sometimes, they don’t recognize her. She says, “They may not remember my name, but they know how I make them feel.”

For more information about Glenmeadow at Home, call Torrie Dearborn at 413-567-5547.

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