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Asha Omar: Why I fell in love with Elder Care

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that every person – no matter who they are or where they come from – has a compelling story to tell.


My love of hearing people’s stories goes all the way back to my grandmother in Somalia, where I lived with my parents and nine siblings. My mother was an only child, so when it became time for grandma to stop living on her own, we took her in,


As the second youngest child, I became very attached to grandma. My favourite thing was listening to her tell stories about what life was like when she was young. I loved reading, but her stories were so interesting that I could sit for hours in rapture while she spoke. She was kind, patient, loving, and a great listener – all essential qualities that she passed down to me and are now helping me in my work.


I was impressed by how devoted my mom was to grandma. She inspired me so much that I was determined to care for my parents when the time came. 


Unfortunately, fate got in the way of my ambition when the Somali Civil War broke out. My family fled to different parts of the world to escape the violence. Mom, dad, and grandma all went to Saudi Arabia, and I came to Canada with my husband Abdihakim and our five children.


My family quickly settled into life in this beautiful country. I learned English and went back to school, but my thoughts always drifted back to my parents and grandmother. Sadly, I never had the privilege of caring for them, as they have since passed away. However, I decided to honour their memory by caring for other seniors in my community.


I started studying for my Personal Support Worker (PSW) certificate at the Canadian Institute for Nurse Advancement. As part of the program, my first placement was at the Village of Humber Heights retirement residence. While working with the wonderful staff and seniors here, I knew I had made the right career move.


All the residents came from different backgrounds with different stories to tell. Just like grandma, I would sit and listen, ask lots of questions, and simply enjoy creating new relationships with these special people.


One staff member I’ll never forget is Lucy. She took the time to explain everything, answer all of my questions, and ensure I had the support I needed to keep the residents cared for. She helped my eldercare career off to a beautiful start.


After graduating in 2012, I started working at the Eatonville Nursing Home. It was an on-call position that required me to report in whenever needed. It was during my time there that I met Nancy, who worked for CareHop. She told me so many exciting things about the company that I became intrigued and decided to apply.


It turned out to be one of the best moves of my life.


The owner, Michael Lu, has created a community that I immediately fell in love with.  He is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. Whenever I needed help, he would always answer his phone to answer my questions or provide the support I needed. My new CareHop colleagues welcomed me as one of theirs right from the start.


Of course, one of the best aspects of working with CareHop is the clients. They are among the most wonderful people I’ve ever worked with. Helping fulfill their individualized care plans one-on-one has allowed me to forge truly beautiful relationships. Many of them treat me like family and are excited to show me their family photo album and tell me all the stories behind them.


Helping my clients who have been diagnosed with dementia is very rewarding. I genuinely enjoy connecting those with dementia with the things they love most. For example, I discovered that one of my clients loved gardening and took a lot of pride in the gardens she used to nurture. Whenever the weather was nice, I took her for a walk in her community garden. Her face filled with joy, and she would tell me all about the flowers and different plants. I learned so much through her, not just about gardening but also about the little things we can do to make a big difference in someone’s life. 


Another of my clients loved classical music, so I started playing it during my visits. Right away, I could feel her demeanor change through her connection with the music. It brought a tear to my eye, knowing that I brought that little bit of joy back into her life.


Although we do have several breakthrough moments, even everyday activities such as helping people accomplish tasks and listening to their stories are very fulfilling. Sometimes, clients tell me how they met their husbands – these romantic stories always warm my heart.  


Bonding with my clients makes getting up and going to work every day a joy! I believe that no matter who you are, you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I treasure the connections I’ve made with my clients. It takes hard work, strong listening skills, patience, empathy, and help from my supportive team from CareHop. They make everyday challenges easier and more joyful to overcome.


Sometimes I wonder what my parents and grandma would think if they were here. I know grandma would be very pleased. She would kiss my head, tell me she was proud of me, and feel honoured that I’ve blessed her memory by taking care of others. Sometimes I can feel her presence through the lessons she’s taught me and know that every day, she’s right by my side. 


About the Author

Asha Omar graduated from the Canadian Institute for Nurse Advancement in 2012 certified as a Personal Support Worker (PSW).

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