Gideon Limpiado knows this.
A youthful-looking 47-year-old, Gideon does his job with an open mind and an open heart, providing the personal care residents need without taking things too personally. After all, with the diverse population of elderly residents he serves, it can be a challenge making everyone happy all of the time.
But Gideon welcomes this challenge. Filling the void left by family members is no small task. It’s a full-time commitment and investment that has given him a career, a home, and a family, with residents whose lives are a big part of his life.
“We laugh together, and we try to be happy together,” says Gideon. “We truly are a family.”
Gideon is a cagergiver and owner of one of the CareAgape Assisted Living Homes, which pride themselves on offering loving family homes. (The word “agape” means the highest form of love.) Gideon also reflects a new paradigm of caregiving in residential homes, in which caregivers will soon become owners of the homes—full-time, live-in caregivers whose investment in the home is all-encompassing: physical, social, emotional, and financial.
Gideon came here from the Philippines in 2010, a highly educated and industrious family man with two teenagers, determined to make a better life. Back in the Philippines, he was a government employee, working in the Office of Statistics, with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Not exactly your typical resume for becoming a caregiver. But Gideon had something else—being from a culture where family values are paramount. He had personal reasons, too.
“My grandmother was the most important person in my life, and I wasn’t really able to care for her or my dad while trying to complete my education,” he says. “I wanted to make up for that.” And he did just that. “It hurts when you see someone in need,” says Gideon, “and you cannot be there to give. Now I give because I can give.” He also gives because he was given the opportunity.
Gideon began working at the CareAgape Assisted Living Homes in Orange County, where he started as a “reliever,” pitching in wherever there was a need. He patiently watched and tirelessly learned. Eventually he became a regular caregiver at a home—one of two caregivers who work at each of these homes, which each house six residents.
Those were the kind of numbers the former statistician liked—small homes that enabled him to carefully assess the needs and capabilities of each new resident so he could provide the most personalized care possible.
“No two residents are alike,” says Gideon. “We approach them all individually. Plus we listen to the families carefully and understand what they want and expect.” Each resident has slightly different needs and functional ability and requires varying levels of independence and assistance. Some residents have mild dementia, memory loss, and may even be recovering from traumatic brain injury. Managing the needs of so many different types of residents can be a delicate balancing act that takes experience, skill, and a lot of psychology. But the common thread caregivers such as Gideon have is compassion and communication. And, of course, it’s all about family—something instilled in Gideon from an early age.
“We have to have heart to do this work,” he says. “That’s the way we do it back home, and that’s the way I do it here.”
“Sure, I could work in an office job with less responsibility,” he says, “but I love my job—I thoroughly love taking care of people. Together we create a home where we share stories, crack jokes and laugh, have fun, and feel like family.” Gideon really likes when residents share their life stories or talk about their own families. He is reminded of one of the lighter moments. “One day, a resident smiled at me, and she said, softly, ‘Pour me a glass of wine, and I’ll tell you all my secrets.’”
It is no secret that one of Gideon’s great joys is family visits. “We get emotional when families see that their loved ones are happy, and we get emotional knowing we have done our jobs.” Gideon encourages family members to come as often as they want and also holds special events, such as birthday parties, Christmas and Easter parties—opportunities to laugh and reinforce the loving bond with residents. “What really makes me feel good is when I hear a family member say, ‘My mom or dad really likes you.’ That motivates me to do even more.” Sometimes doing more means taking out his guitar and singing songs to residents.
This is one of many ways Gideon tries to hit the right note with residents, and one more reason CareAgape homes are cheerful environments where residents participate in activities to help keep their minds active. “We are a family in a house together,” says Gideon, “and I want my family members to have fun—and thrive.”
In and around the fun and family atmosphere, there are also many responsibilities. In addition to all the day-to-day caregiving duties, Gideon manages the home, monitors the residents’ clinical symptoms and medications, interfaces with medical professionals, takes residents to their doctors’ appointments, runs errands, and more. With all his experience, he also helps train younger caregivers at other homes. And a caregiver’s roles and responsibilities can become increasingly complex given the special needs of new and more challenged, and challenging, residents.
In Gideon’s case, it doesn’t end there. Drawing upon his architecture background, Gideon also has a hand in inspecting each new CareAgape home, sketching plans to convert each home into a suitable, six-bed residence. “I add rooms, widen hallways for safety, and do whatever it takes to make the homes as safe and comfortable as possible, so they look and feel like family homes.”
Yes, it’s all about family—something instilled in Gideon from an early age. “Sometimes this doesn’t even feel like a job, because my pay is from the heart.” Maybe that’s why, for Gideon, being a caregiver feels less like a job and more like a labor of love.