Life is Beautiful when Helping Others
Jenny Aherne has worked for Classic LifeCare for 20 years and plans to be a companion to her client, Jason, until the day she dies.
The single mother of five, who came from a family of nine, has enjoyed a fun, active and very busy life. She was working as a real estate agent 20 years ago when she came across an ad in the paper posted by Jan Sherwood, the founder of Classic LifeCare.
The ad was looking for people interested in taking classes to care for people with brain injury.
“My daughter was injured in 1988 and I was caring for her at home,” said Aherne, during an interview at her home in Abbotsford. “I saw that ad and I became the most motivated person you ever saw to learn as much as I could about brain injury.”
Aherne said she began working with a family through Classic but soon met Jason, the client she would end up with for the next 20 years.
Jason was in an accident on the same day in the same year as Aherne’s daughter. He became brain injured and paralyzed and required 24-hour care following his accident.
Aherne said she doesn’t know if it was the coincidence of her daughter and Jason’s accidents or the fact that she saw so much potential in him that motivated her to work with him.
She currently sees Jason three days a week with no plans to retire…ever.
Susan Fulton, Clinical Leader of Classic LifeCare, says Aherne has gone above and beyond as a companion to Jason.
“In all the time Jenny has been with us, she has never lost her dedication and enthusiasm to advocate for her client and to make connections for him in the community,” says Fulton. “She recognizes how important her role is in her client’s life.”
Aherne said the best advice families and caregivers can follow is to show the person being cared for that you care about them and will try to do what’s best for them.
“If you have to tell them a thousand times a day that you care about them, do it. It takes tough love mixed with a lot of understanding. That’s one thing I love about Classic. This company attracts people who genuinely care about their clients. They want to make a difference. They care for their clients from a place of understanding.”
Aherne, who went back to real estate while still working with Jason, said real estate sales and working with brain injury require some of the same skills.
“In both roles you need to be really good at reading a person, paying attention to who they are and not just what they say, and be observant of their communication style.”
Reflecting back on 20 years with Classic, Aherne said the best moments have been celebrating along with her client when they’ve seen progress. She said it’s hard work because sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s too exciting, sometimes it’s menial, but it can be profound.
“When your client climbs a mountain, so to speak, by showing progress in some way, you and the client feel a profound moment that makes everything worthwhile. It’s those moments that make this such an incredible job.”
Aherne gets around a little slower these days as she struggles with the pain of arthritis, but still manages to enjoy her garden, cook, bake and enjoy family.
She said she jokes with Jason when he asks how long she’ll stay with him working as a companion.
“I’ll tease him and say, ‘Maybe I’ll be done tomorrow, maybe the next day.’ But we both know I will be there for him until I die.”