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Local caregiver wins national award

Jessica Garcia | jgarcia@nevadaappeal.com
Right at Home employee Bonnie Croom, 27, of Reno displays the plaque she received after being named the company's National Caregiver of the Year for 2019 earlier this year.
Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

Bonnie Croom, 27, an employee of Right at Home, which provides in-home care to clients in Reno, Sparks and Carson City, has been named National Caregiver of the Year, bringing a personal distinction to a local franchise in Northern Nevada.

Right at Home, founded in 1995, now has 500 franchises across the United States, with three in Nevada.

Mark and Elaine Wimbush, former corporate employees seeking a new path with more compassion for the community, own the Reno location at 10635 Double R Blvd. Their branch sends outs caregivers to assist clients in the core areas of Reno, Sparks and Carson City, but their reach also extends to Gardnerville, Minden, Fallon, Tahoe and they can even serve Yerington in Lyon County if there’s a need. The Wimbushes nominated Croom for her award and were excited to have one of their own staff members named for the honor.

“She has the rare ability to couple a professional demeanor with a compassionate heart, and that shows through with everyone she encounters,” Wimbush said of her in his original recommendation. “My wife Elaine (who hired her) has the highest regard for Bonnie and has often extolled the extraordinary level of care she provides to our clients. Bonnie epitomizes what it truly means to be a caregiver.”

Croom is now in her seventh year with Right at Home and is the youngest employee to be chosen as National Caregiver of the Year. For her honor as a national recipient, she was bestowed $5,000 and a trip to the national Right at Home conference in Dallas earlier this year. Right at Home also names four regional recipients each year, but Croom was the only Northern Nevadan this year to receive a 2019 award.

“One of the best experiences I’ve ever had is when I won that award, going to Dallas, Texas, and I was extremely nervous giving my speech,” Croom said. “That was my first time giving a speech in front of a large crowd. There were all these people working with Right at Home. Everyone was so friendly. It was so nice.”

Right at Home matches clients and caregivers according to personality and skill sets to ensure compatibility, Mark Wimbush said.

“We have four levels, 1 to 4, and the highest level is training with dementia,” he said.

Most clients have some degree of memory loss and need or want some level of companionship as they live apart from their families or their families are unable to look after them part- or full-time. RAH’s caregivers can come as requested one or two days per week or daily as needed.

They might need assistance with toilet needs or showers, they might require assistance taking medication, but caregivers aren’t authorized to administer the pills they need. Croom and others might simply be asked to help with daily chores, Wimbush said.

Croom, like many others, started off with only a basic knowledge of care in November 2012. She was born and raised in Reno and said she didn’t necessarily have a plan prior to Right at Home to become a professional caregiver or try nursing, but now she is studying to become a nurse at Truckee Meadows Community College. Her time as a caregiver, she said, has been invaluable. Her own personal experience also inspired her about the need for assistance as people mature.

“My father had me at a late age and needed caregivers,” she said. “He passed away six years ago. I’m someone who could help. I enjoyed it, and I was good at it.”

She explored different agencies but through a friend she eventually applied at Right at Home, she said, receiving some training on how to enter a home and interacting with new clients and determining how to behave with a new client based on various needs.

“It truly is an art (matching us) with different clients,” Croom said.

She described walking into one client’s home on the first day one time and recalling little conversation that took place at first but that she’d observed their décor and using their love of cars to spur a connection.

“It was amazing the way (the Right at Home staff) match the personalities, and it kind of gives us something to bond over — because it is a different thing to go into someone’s home. You’re in their world and it’s their personal space, and you’re there to take care of them. But for me, personally, it’s like, everybody’s older than me. I don’t want them to feel like, ‘This lady’s here telling me what to do.’”

Croom said generally it’s easy to discern if a client-caregiver match will work out right away, and Right at Home is understanding if it won’t.

Whatever the need is, though, the family has to have the financial needs to support having a caregiver in the home.

“If you do not have longterm care insurance, then you better be independently wealthy if you’re going to have someone in your house more than eight hours,” Wimbush said. “It’s a really tough situation because most people do not want to be in a facility, and most people want to stay home, and this allows people to do that to a degree.”

Staff members of Right at Home franchises select their own employees to nominate for the award, and Wimbush said at their meeting, they narrowed it down to a handful, including Croom.

Croom, he said, had outstanding testimonials from her clients, including from Dr. Craig Karrasch, who described Croom’s compassion for his mother, Nina Karrasch.

“(She) is extremely moral, compassionate, and trustworthy,” Karrasch wrote about Croom. “Bonnie has exceptional judgment and instincts and has always known when it was important and appropriate to voice concerns and or needs on my mother’s behalf and my family nor would I ever question it.”

Craig Karrasch also praised Croom’s level of care for his mother, a client of Right at Home until her passing, in a YouTube video sharing Croom’s achievement as national caregiver of the year.

The video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89cDi_9mBDE.

In the meantime, Croom, still attending TMCC and expecting her first child, said she looks forward to finishing her education and has enjoyed what her experiences with Right at Home has taught her about providing an outstanding level of care that meets the needs of her clients and forming relationships with them.

“We all want the same thing as people,” Croom said. “We all want someone to care about us and treat us with respect and dignity.”

She said some things can never be overlooked professionally, but she said she tries to perform her job as if she might be the one to need the care in the future.

“Some of my clients are so wealthy, and what you do with that money, it’s so heartwarming when we see a family take it upon themselves to keep that family member in their home and give them everything and to see that kind of love is so thoughtful,” Croom said. “I start to think about the future, and when I’m old, I hope someone takes care of me.”