Being a caregiver is a difficult job. Not only is the work demanding, but often you are helping a person during the final weeks or months of their lives. A good caregiver will show compassion and love to their patients, but it is difficult when a bond forms and then you have to say goodbye.
Isabelle Jennings knows this firsthand. The 18-year-old formed a special bond with one of her regular patients, 94-year-old Mary Helen Schmelzle.
“She just cared so deeply and I really connected with that,” Isabelle said. “She cared about the other residents so much. We would be at supper — she would see if people needed help.”
Despite knowing that she might not have long with Helen, Isabelle didn’t let that deter her from forming a deep and special friendship with the elderly woman.
“I can’t hold myself back from caring for them or loving them because I am afraid of getting hurt, because then they don’t get the care they need,” she said.
One of the special things Helen and Isabelle shared was a love of hymns. Every time Isabelle would walk into the room Helen would ask, “Are you going to sing to me?” Then Isabelle would hold her hand and oblige.
In the eight months Isabelle worked with Helen at the Life Care Center in Seneca, Kansas, she found a true “kindred spirit” in the kind-hearted elderly woman. But a few weeks ago, Helen confided in Isabelle that she felt her struggle with congestive heart failure was at an end.
Fearing Helen would pass before her next shift, Isabelle came in on her day off to sit with her sweet friend.
“I loved Helen and I counted her as a friend,” Isabelle said. “I knew it would be the last time I saw her.”
Despite her sadness and the tears welling up, Isabelle did what she always did when she was with Helen – she sang.
As the family stood around the bed, Isabelle held Helen’s hand and sang “In the Garden.” Helen’s daughter, Julie Nichol, recorded the special moment.
“This beautiful act of kindness and compassion that Isabelle showed, it was very touching,” Julie said later. “The best gift you can give somebody is your time, just your compassion.”
Helen had moved into Life Care seven years earlier with her husband Gilbert. Unfortunately he passed away just six months later.
She began to form close bonds with many of the staff members at Life Care, often offering to pray for them.
“We just loved her and she was so dear to us,” Isabelle said.
Helen passed away on January 21, and Julie decided to share the poignant video of Isabelle singing to her in her final moments to hopefully inspire other caregivers to show the same love and respect to their charges.
“I am hoping they see the beauty of someone like Isabelle being in the present moment, taking the time to be compassionate,” she said.
Were you touched by what Isabelle did for Helen in her final moments? So share this!