At 21 years old, Sherry Smith was happy being a mother to her son – a toddler at the time – and working a factory job. But then a freak accident changed the course of her life.
One rainy night she threw on a pair of slick-bottomed loafers to take the new Eskimo Spitz puppy out for a quick walk. Coming into the house, Sherry slipped on the carpet and broke her foot, an accident that resulted in surgery and a five-day stay at the hospital. “Even after I came home, I was depending on others to help take care of me,” Sherry said. “My husband was great, but he had to work during the days. I was always so glad when people would come to visit and could help me do even the simple tasks of getting a glass of water. It was a real wake-up call for me, and put my life on a new course. I decided I wanted to use my life to help others.”
For Sherry, that meant enrolling into the CNA program at Forsyth Tech when she moved to Winston-Salem in 1981 and looking for jobs in the classifieds for someone to sit with their loved one. “One day at church one of my friends who worked with City Nursing, which was what Piedmont Home Care used to be called, told me I should apply for a job with them. I put in my application, and went to work with them the next day.”
Sherry is quick to say that the wonderful people at Piedmont Home Care are part of the reason for her longevity with the company. “They’re a truly grand group of people, who are always there for us, the caregivers,” Sherry says. “They’re willing to work with me when I’ve needed time off to care for my family, they support us in getting all the training we need to better serve our clients, and especially now with COVID they’ve been great about providing us all the personal protective equipment we need to stay safe.”
Working for an employer who values education and training is important to Sherry, who has continued to go back for more training, certifications and classes since getting her CNA 1 license in the 1980s. Since then just a few of the certifications she’s received have been in phlebotomy, med tech to give medicines in a licensed facility, for medical billing and coding, and for supervisory in assisted living. “I feel like having knowledge about the medical and technical aspects really helps me do a better job with my clients,” Sherry says. “I know certain things to look for, if they’re experiencing swelling or dehydration or anything that might need treatment I can get help right away.”
But as important as it is that Sherry’s found job fulfillment with Piedmont Home Care, it’s even more meaningful to her the relationships she’s been able to foster helping care for people in and around the Winston-Salem community. Many of her clients over the years have been friends with each other, or gotten to know her through her work with their relatives. “It’s like a circle of love,” Sherry says.
Love is the word that describes what Sherry brings with her to work every single day. Her effusive personality is contagious, and the love for life she expresses can only serve to brighten the day of her clients as soon as she walks in the door. These days Sherry works with a client she has been with for nine years. Over the time, their relationship has grown and Sherry feels like her client is one of her family. That’s something that’s more important now than ever, when the client’s family can’t visit in person due to COVID-19 restrictions in the assisted living facility.
Sherry suits up in her PPE, slathers her hands in hand sanitizer, and puts on her N-95 mask and face shield, excited to spend time with her client and make sure she’s doing okay. “I have a new routine with COVID, and now I start my time with her sanitizing the door knobs and opening the window a little to let fresh air in, but then we’re still doing our normal routine of picking out her outfit for the day and scrolling through Facebook over breakfast,” Sherry says. “With her family unable to visit in person, I feel the time we have together is even more meaningful.”
As a young person in her 20s, Sherry decided to devote her career to taking care of others. She could have never known then just how valuable that would be over the years, especially now during the trying times of the pandemic.
At Piedmont Home Care, our caregivers like Sherry do their work with love and compassion. It’s more than just a job, it’s a calling.