“I am honored to be a part of Always Best Care because I know they want the best for their clients and their employees.” -Quandra Conner
The theme of this year’s Always Best Care Senior Services’ International Conference in San Antonio, Texas, was We Are the Brand, which was an acknowledgement that the people who work for and with Always Best Care and its franchisees are the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the company so special.
Perhaps no one in the Always Best Care family exemplifies the idea of We Are the Brand better than Quandra Conner, the Always Best Care 2015 Caregiver of the Year. Quandra, who works for the Richmond South Franchise in Midlothian, Virginia, is the ideal caregiver for a number of reasons. However, it is her dedication to helping others as a way of life – not a job – that makes her so special.
I had a chance to chat with Quandra shortly after the conference about a variety of important topics. It became quite clear during our conversation that Quandra was born to do what she does, and she serves as a fantastic inspiration for anybody who feels the calling to help others. Always Best Care is extremely proud to have Quandra on the team. Read on to find out why!
Matthew Kollock: Congratulations on the Caregiver of the Year award! Did you know going into the conference that you were selected?
Quandra Conner: Well, the office had already told me before we went to Texas that I had won. But before that, I did not know anything about them nominating me until we had a meeting at work one day – an all-staff meeting – where they announced it. That’s when I found out that I was a candidate for it. Then, once they found out from corporate (that I won the award), they called my family in without me knowing! They had everybody at the office, and they told me that I had to come in and do some paperwork. So I got to the office, and everybody was there. That’s when they told me I had won.
MK: That must have been a pretty good feeling!
QC: Oh, yes! I just couldn’t believe that I had done such a great job to win. To me, I just do my job. That’s what I do. So, yes, it was a great feeling.
MK: Can you give a little bit of background on your story and how you came to Always Best Care?
QC: I was unemployed at the time. I had been working at a nursing home, and they were just the meanest people to me. They didn’t care about their patients; they didn’t care about their employees. To me, if we’re working for you, and we’re doing a good job, you should care about us, too. There was a lot of “bad attitude” in the office. And I know that we all have bad days, but the way I look at it is like this: Don’t bring your situation across the door into your job. You can leave that at home, and instead bring this: Your smile – what people see. That’s what makes people happy. Your clients, when they see that smile, they know that they can make it to the next day.
One of my friends told me about Always Best Care. I called for an interview and when I got there, I could feel the love. People were friendly and warm, greeting me with a big, “How are you doing?” and every time I go into the office, it’s the same thing, just like it’s been from day one. Nothing’s changed.
It makes the employees feel good about themselves, and it lets them know, “I’m working for the best company there is.”
That’s how I ended up working with Always Best Care, and I’m not planning on leaving! I love Always Best Care.
MK: You had mentioned working in a nursing home prior to becoming a caregiver with Always Best Care. How long have you been in your profession?
QC: I used to do daycare. I had a daycare in my home for about two or three years. As far as being a caregiver, it’s been eight years? Nine years? Ten Years? (Laughs) If it’s something you love doing, you just block the time out (Laughs).
MK: In terms of hiring a caregiver, what are some of the important qualities to assess in the evaluation process?
QC: Well, they have to be caring. To me, they have to listen because some of these elderly people, they just want people to listen to them. In many cases, their families are not listening, and not letting them in on the decision-making process. What I love to do is just sit down with my patients and just talk to them – talk about anything. And they love that! Even if it’s just sitting down to watch TV with them, talking about the stories. They love that. Some of their family members are so busy with their lives that they don’t take the time out to listen to them.
What’s important is just being there with them to let them know that they’re safe, and you’re there to help, and not take advantage of them. That’s my thing. You’ve got to have caring, loving people with smiles on their faces. It’s really just being there with them, letting them know that they’re safe in their homes.
MK: The theme of the recent ABC conference was “We Are the Brand.” What does it mean to you, personally, to be a part of the Always Best Care brand?
QC: I am honored to be a part of Always Best Care because I know they want the best for their clients and their employees. So I am honored to be a part of the organization. When I went to the conference, it was everyone – not just my company. You know, I consider my company to be a family, and when we were all there at the conference, everyone came together and it was just one big family from the head to the bottom. There was no, “Your company is better than mine!” or “My company is better than yours!” It was not that. It was all about one thing: to take care of our clients the best way we can.
MK: In watching the video of your acceptance speech online, I could really sense that idea of family and everyone being in it together.
QC: Yes. It was a great time. I’ve never been around so many people who care so much about their clients and their employees. For me, it just melted my heart. I was just excited!
MK: Can you talk a little bit more about the culture of Always Best Care and how it might compare with other brands in the industry?
QC: Well, one thing I can say about Miss Joan (Joan Shifflett, Owner and Operator of Always Best Care in southern Richmond), is that when we go in for our evaluations, we set goals. And they set goals for each employee. Then they help you to reach your goals. Whatever they can help you do, they help you to do it, and I love that! I’ve never been with a company that wants you to do better for yourself. Always Best Care wants you to do well for you and your family. And I love that!
MK: It sounds like they really believe in you, and you can feel that in your heart.
QC: Yes. I can. From the first day I stepped in.
MK: Always Best Care has won a ton of awards for training and support. Additionally, the company has recently introduced the ABC Universe intranet, which will have a tremendous impact on the process of developing caregivers. How would you describe the ways in which the Always Best Care training and technology have helped you develop as a caregiver?
QC: Well, we have staff meetings every two months, where we’re given a reading. There, we have to answer questions, and this helps me to better myself. Some of the stuff I already know, but it helps me to remember, like a refresher course. And that’s a good thing because you can’t go wrong by doing better at what you’re doing.
We talk about issues like not hurting ourselves, the proper ways to live and the proper way to take care of ourselves as well as the clients. It’s excellent. Some of them (caregivers), are at home; they have families and all of that. There’s just so much involved in trying to do both. But when they do these refresher courses and training, it keeps you up to date with the new stuff. Every year, there is something new coming out, and it keeps you up to date.
Also, it’s about helping you with your clients, so both of you are safe at the same time. I think that the technologies that they’re using in the training are excellent!
MK: That’s amazing because so many people out in the working world just dread meetings, training sessions and refresher courses. It really sounds like Always Best Care is different; they make it worth your time, and you’re really getting something out of it.
QC: Yes! I like the hands-on approach. Some people like to sit in a class, and others like the hands-on approach. I like the hands-on training because I’m actually doing it. They can see if I’m doing it wrong, which is excellent. Everybody learns differently, though, and they allow you to give your opinion on what you think. It’s not like, “I’m doing all the talking!” We’re a group, and we’re discussing it. So that’s what helps me.
Sometimes you go to these meetings, and you’re just sitting there, listening. You don’t have the opportunity to give your opinion on what you think. One thing I can say about Always Best Care, though, is that they listen. Whatever you have to ask, no question is dumb, so it works out good for everyone.
MK: Yes, that’s very important, and it brings to mind something that you mentioned earlier about making sure that the people you’re caring for have a voice and know that they’re important. It seems like that’s exactly how Always Best Care feels about its caregivers.
QC: Yes. And I love this company! I can’t say it enough. I just love it. It’s the best one I have ever been with. I’ve been with a couple of them, but it just seems like it’s the best. They care about people, and that’s where I am. I want to work with someone who really cares.
You know, it’s not all for the money. If it were all for the money, we wouldn’t be here because we aren’t getting paid that much. It’s the care. That’s what’s keeping me here – the care and the love.
MK: Looking ahead to the future, what are some your personal and professional goals?
QC: I do want to work into the office to learn more information about the company. I still want to work with my patients, but I really want to work in the company, and try to teach people how to be better. You know, they may be struggling somewhere, and I can say, “Hey – this is what you’re doing wrong.” I like to help teach people about the best way to care for their clients.
MK: That’s great! It sounds like you’re thinking about it on a bigger scale – what you’re doing now is working, but you want to make sure that everyone can have the success that you’re having. Is that fair to say?
QC: Yes! Those people are who we’re supposed to care for. They have lived. They’re at the age where they need help. You know, some of them give up. When they know they don’t have their love, some of them give up. But we’re there to keep coaching them, teaching them and loving them. Some of them pull through and live longer.
When I get with a client and they’re feeling so lonely and depressed, they can end up giving up their life. But if I come every day and say things like, “We’re going to do this! You look so pretty!” they can see their spirit and realize that, “I can do it. I can do it!” And eventually their life turns around. Their health gets better.
So that’s my thing. I want to be able to teach them that, “This is what we have to do.” We have to keep encouraging them (the clients) to pull through this thing.
MK: That’s powerful stuff, and I think most people have seen that in their own families – the power of the human connection is remarkable.
QC: Yes. Take the patient I just had: when I first got there, she had multiple sclerosis, and she was a bedridden patient. You could go in there every day, and she was just so sad. But I would tell her, “If you want this, you have to fight for it. I’m here; I can help you do everything you want, but I can’t fight for it for you.” And I would tell her, “You’re pretty. I love you!” I would just do everything I could to make her happy.
MK: Do you feel like there are some challenges of the job that are too much to handle? Or do you see it as all part of the job; all part of what you do?
QC: I see it as all part of the job, but one of the biggest challenges I see is that there aren’t enough caregivers like me. I want everybody to be like me, in that they would care for the people like I care for them. You know, they’re on their last days, and I think they should enjoy them.
Everything else just goes with the job. If you’re not fit for the job, then you need to get out of it, and let somebody else who’s fit for the job come in and take your place.
MK: To me, it seems like you’ve really found your calling in this job.
QC: Yes, I have.
MK: That being the case, what do you have to say to others out there who might not know what to do with their lives and how they can help others?
QC: Well, my thing is that you have to follow your heart. If you follow your heart, and if there’s something that’s in your heart that you want to do, you will do the best at it. But if it’s not in your heart, you’re not going to do a great job. So my thing is follow your heart: pray about it, ask the Lord to give you direction, and just follow your heart.
To me, what I do is in my heart, so I do a great job. I love caring for people. And it’s not just the elderly – it’s everyone that I care for.
MK: Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?
QC: The only thing I have to say is that I couldn’t be where I am without my company; without my Always Best Care company. The whole staff is just wonderful. They’re excellent. I couldn’t be where I am today without them. I want them to know that it’s not just me; it’s all of us. We’re in this together, and we want it to work together.
MK: Finally, Quandra, do you have any big plans for the $1,000 you received as part of your Caregiver of the Year award?
QC: One of my plans is, my daughter is going to Howard (University) for the summer, so I want to make sure she has everything she needs, so she can be straight for the summer program. Then, I want to take my company out to lunch!
Interested in learning more about Always Best Care and fantastic caregivers like Quandra Conner? Give us a call at: (855) 470-CARE. Contact us today!