We want to continue to highlight the work of our amazing adult foster care home providers in Oregon.
Matt Gannon spent some time talking with Provider Cherie Bray, owner of Country Comfort Adult Foster Home in Lane County. Please read below to learn more about Cherie.
How long have you worked in the adult care home business?
I've worked in the business since July of 2015. I was a career hairstylist and was looking for something new, so I enrolled in Lane Community College's Women in Transitions (LCC WIT) Program. My co-worker from the salon later referred me to a caregiver job at Country Comfort Adult Foster Home in Veneta, Oregon. Country Comfort was established in 1999 and is a class 2 home. I ended up taking the caregiving job and after thirty days I knew this was exactly what I wanted to be doing, so I quit my other career.
For the next three years, I was groomed and mentored by the provider of the adult foster home. I then became a co-licensee of Country Comfort in February of 2018. Then, in May of 2018, I took over the business completely when the previous provider retired.
For about the first ninety days, I was the only caregiver and worked full-time doing everything to completely wrap my arms around the responsibility I took on, and to get my bearings. Opportunities for staffing support presented itself, and once I had that support and partnership, I was really underway.
What do you believe makes adult foster care homes special?
The adult foster home model is designed to enable people to live independently in a family home environment, but it is much more than that. Too many people become isolated in later life. The adult foster home gives them more of an opportunity for new connections, sustaining old connections, and supporting traditions and life experiences. We don’t want people to feel isolated at the end of their lives, and so we give them a place to feel like this transition and the experience of us all being together in the home is another positive chapter in their life.
My journey from career hairstylist to caregiver opened a path to service for me that is so much more profound...
What do you love most about the work you do?
This career came to me as my youngest child was going to college, so I was going through the empty nesting stage which is a big change. The adult foster home allows me to continue to care for others. Being the provider of the home has afforded me so much healing in my own life through caring for others, and it distracts me from any of my own issues. This healing began to happen immediately when I took my first job and began serving others in this special way, and it continues to do so. My journey from career hairstylist to caregiver opened a path to service for me that is so much more profound than just helping someone look pretty.
There was a woman living in the home early on in my caregiving career, Mrs. H., who was nonverbal and a full assist with ADLs (activities of daily living). We meet people in this stage at times, and you of course never knew them before they required the level of support you must give, even though they’ve lived a very full life up until you become a part of their life. Something special happened. I realized she would respond to my touch, and if I gently put my arms around her, she would then begin to lean into me and want me to hold her. I realized I made a difference to her with this act alone, in this world - in her world, I made a difference through my presence and through my touch.
She was also the first resident I cared for who passed away. I realize still to this day, what I do as a provider, I do for her and the gift she gave me.
It is successful work when you are being told that your presence and what you do makes a difference in their lives - this is what it is all about for me.
What do you believe makes someone’s work successful?
Positively impacting the lives of others; providing a safe home for the residents and protecting them in some of the darkest days they've ever had. It is successful work when you are being told that your presence and what you do makes a difference in their lives - this is what it is all about for me.
Since taking over as sole provider, I’ve also incorporated hospice care through a community partnership. This partnership has allowed me to also be there for my residents until the very end. It makes me feel triumphant in my work of service knowing I was able to serve them the whole way home.
Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I do not do this work alone. My best friend is my live-in substitute caregiver. My daughter and her husband are my backup caregivers. With the pandemic, getting staff has been the greatest challenge I have ever faced in this line of work.
My husband does all of our finances and shopping so we don’t have to worry about more exposure issues. Without them, the team, I could never do this at the level I do.
The residents' families also become family to us. There are residents who’ve passed away, and their families still remain in touch with us as time goes on because they value the ongoing connection. It helps them feel closer to their loved ones, I believe.
Being an adult foster home provider has given me the extended family I’ve always wanted. I make sure everyone hears from me just how important they are to me. This is key. We invest in everyone's self care in different ways because it matters to us that everyone has the balance in life to be happy and not rundown.
And, I know you cannot give what you haven't got, so it starts with me.
Visit Country Comfort Adult Foster Home on Facebook.