In July 2022, Rabecca Shankster moved halfway around the world from Mazabuka, Zambia, to the Hoosier state of Indiana. Not long after, she began working for Senior1Care as a caregiver out of our Elkhart office, quickly earning the trust of her clients and peers.

Here is more of her story:

Rabecca Shankster, Senior1Care caregiver, with husband.A Bit About Rabecca

Rabecca was born and raised in Zambia, working as an accountant for the last few years. It was during that time she met her husband (who is originally from Elkhart) and got married. After living in Zambia together for nearly two years, they decided to start their new life together as husband and wife in the United States.

The transition to the U.S. has been a unique experience. It can be overwhelming to adjust to a new culture, and Rabecca notes that there are some aspects she finds especially challenging. This includes the speed at which people drive (apparently we’re speed demons, comparatively) and ingredients and flavors found in American cuisine. For instance, she is used to a Zambian corn flour that, when prepared with water, transforms into a mashed potato consistency with a strong, natural flavor — something she says she hasn’t encountered as much here in the U.S.

One thing that hasn’t been a challenge though, is the language. English is the official language of Zambia (though she says they have 72 other languages spoken there) and children are expected to learn English by the age of three to be able to attend schools, which are taught entirely in English.

When she’s not working, she enjoys going to parks, enjoying the outdoors, and running. She doesn’t track miles or time though, she’s simply into running for enjoyment! She is also very involved in her church, which she attends often with her husband.

Mastering the Art of Caregiving

Rabecca started at Senior1Care in October 2022, receiving her CNA certificate and then jumping into client care. The transition was an adjustment, especially as she was learning the ropes with several clients, each with unique challenges. There were many things she did to make it a successful transition, however. One thing she found helpful was to arrive at her shift early so she had time to ask the previous caregiver questions and observe their interactions with the client.

She also notes that patience is essential when working with a new client. A new caregiver can cause some trepidation with clients who get used to working with certain Senior1Care staff, and are naturally concerned with important tasks getting lost in transition. At other times, they may feel like you’re trying to take over their home and lay down your own rules. The key, she says, is to come in with confidence, assure them you know what you’re doing, and follow it up with plenty of patience and understanding.

Connecting with Clients

Now that she’s had several months under her belt as a caregiver, Rabecca has come to love the role and the ability to help people. She tries to keep those she cares for happy, especially clients who need an extra boost to enjoy life.

One of her favorite questions is “Would you like to go outside?” Although a client might refuse at first, Rabecca will continue extending the invitation over time. Eventually, the sun shines bright enough or the fresh air beckons and she and her client will be outside enjoying each other’s company. The next time she asks her favorite question, the answer is a quick “yes!”

She also loves being able to talk with her clients and hear their stories, like those of her main clients, a couple in their 90s who each have deteriorating health but sharp minds that can easily reminisce about their history together. She recalls them talking about the house they bought together and have now lived in for 45 years. Not long after getting the keys to their new place, they celebrated by jumping into the river that passes through their backyard. Soon they were greeted by a large snake, scaring them out of the water and sending them running back to the house. They are still laughing about it decades later!

Though some clients readily share stories with her, Rabecca loves when a more reserved client starts to open up to her and can make a connection. Many clients, she says, are curious and interested in where she’s from and learning about new cultures, even going so far as to get books to read together. “Those are good moments,” she says, and can help foster connection. Other clients are reluctant to talk, even when it comes to needing help or admitting when they are in pain. She has learned to remain patient and reinforce her desire to listen. Eventually, they’ll open up and say how they really feel. It’s then she can be a positive reinforcement, helping them with their needs and encouraging them to share freely.

A Supportive Work Environment

When it comes to Senior1Care, Rabecca appreciates the way they accommodate schedules for caregivers, while making sure clients are covered. She says they’re good about creating schedules, informing caregivers, then being flexible and understanding when adjustments need to be made.

She also said that it’s been helpful working with the office whenever she has client questions, is seeking help with a challenging situation, or needs to communicate with family members. Caregivers primarily work alone with clients, so office staff are often a lifeline for caregivers who need assistance.

Thank you for the kudos, Rabecca! We certainly love having you in our Elkhart office and look forward to taking care of clients together.