Area woman recipient of National Caregiver of Year Award

Published 5:45 am Friday, June 14, 2024

Elmer Johnson feels blessed in her role of listening, helping. To her, it doesn’t feel like a job.

Most employers have had at least one employee they wish they could clone. For George Cestia, Home Instead, it’s Elmer Johnson. Johnson is the recent recipient of a National Caregiver of the Year Award. She’s been with Home Instead, a personal care service since 2012, and assists individuals of all ages, generally the elderly, with everyday activities around the house such as bathing, cleaning, meal prep and medication reminders.

“I don’t consider it a job,” she said. “I love what I do. That’s why I tell my children and grandchildren not to spend all kinds of money and go into debt to get a degree for something based on the pay. Do it for the money and your life will be miserable,” she said.

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Johnson has gone through treatment for breast cancer and beat it, without missing work.

“I went to radiation in the morning and to work at noon,” she said.

“Elmer doesn’t tell you why it can’t happen, she figures out a way to make it happen,” Cestia said.

“I think I got that from my mama. She wouldn’t let us make excuses. If you had a major test, you still had to do your chores even if that meant washing the dishes and propping up your notes so you could see them while you were doing it.”

Johnson’s mother always worked, but when times were hard, she started selling popcorn balls and pies to supplement the family’s income.

“We got up making pies and went to bed making pies,” Johnson recalled with a chuckle, “and during the holidays, the orders started coming in….”

Cestia said Johnson has “tackled some of Home Instead’s most difficult clients.” A better way of putting it is that she wins them over by being Elmer Johnson.

“You gotta read the room,” said the woman who has met hundreds of new clients in 11 years. “I am not sure what George means by difficult. I feel like I have only encountered one in all this time, and I knew it right away, and never went back.

Her clients confide in her. “They have told me things that I will take to my grave,” she said, and chuckled. She has shared with them how she got her unusual name.

Listening, and asking questions of the elderly was a way of life for Johnson from the age of 12 when her grandmother came to live with the family.

“She was blind and she was my responsibility before school and after,” Johnson said. “I loved finding out about her life and ever since that time, I have loved being around the elderly and listening to their stories.”