Sean Novak is often part of the team sitting by the bed when hospice patients take their final breaths. As a home health aide, he provides Crossroads patients with emotional support, bathes and cleans them, keeps them comfortable, reads to them and visits with their families as they approach the ends of their lives. Though his work is difficult, he is motivated by an innate compassion for those he visits.
“People ask me all the time how I do it,” he says. “I just ask them, ‘How could I not do it? What if this was your family? What if this was you?’ I have a passion for it, I love caring for people. At the end of the day, I feel like I have really accomplished something. That’s why I do it.”
Journey To Crossroads
Born and raised in North Olmsted, OH, Sean has always wanted to live his life for others. “Ever since I was little, I wanted to care for people,” he says. “When I turned 20, I started working at a nursing facility for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. I was responsible for 23 patients but I wasn’t performing the one-on-one care that I wanted to.”
When a coworker left the nursing facility to join Crossroads Hospice in Cleveland, she recommended Crossroads to Sean because he was looking for the opportunity to provide individualized care. He applied four years ago and has been there ever since.
A Lasting Impact
From week to week, Sean is assigned a new caseload of patients and families to support. “I don’t always know what I’m getting into, and I love that challenge of getting to know new patients and families,” he said. “I can make a difference in this person’s life, for their families, just by being there when they need someone the most.”
Even though he only spends a brief time with each patient and family, Sean’s impact is undeniable. “I once ran into a former patient’s wife at a restaurant. She came up to me and gave me this big kiss. She said, ‘You made my husband’s last days his best. We love you so much.’ She insisted on paying for my meal, and it felt amazing knowing that I made a difference in that woman’s life. She loved her husband but she’s doing ok now that he’s gone. They were able to get through the hard times and that’s rewarding.”
Sean was once mentioned by name in a patient’s obituary because the family was so moved by the way he prepared them during her end-of-life care. “I visited the patient a few times and every time I left, she had a smile on her face. The family just loved that. I prayed with the patient and read her scripture. I was just being me. I thought it was an honor to be included in the obituary.”
Doing More Is Everything
Sean credits his fellow Crossroads staff members for encouraging him to go above and beyond in his work. “The people that I work with and the company that I work for, besides the patients those are my favorite things about my job,” he says. “I work with a lot of great people. We do this because we love doing it. Every single person I’ve worked with, they all have a passion for what they do.”
He sees Crossroads as the only place that allows him to provide the level of care that he wants to. “For me, the ‘doing more’ mentality is everything. If the family expects more of you, you’re able to deliver. We can meet their needs, whatever they are. We’re there for the spiritual and emotional support as much as the physical.”
For some, it might be difficult to understand Sean’s continued drive to provide care for patients day after day, whom he only knows for a short time. He is just grateful for the opportunity to help. “My patients are able to pass away peacefully, with dignity and surrounded by love. That’s what is meaningful to me. It’s not easy, but I love doing it. I wouldn’t do anything else.”
Honoring Our Home Health Aides:
We’re proud to honor Sean as our Crossroads Hospice “Staff Spotlight” recipient of the month, and recognize our Home Health Aides who work hands on with our patients and their families each day, such as: Shanae McMiller in Kansas City, Antonia Mosley in Oklahoma City, Dana Marchisello in Philadelphia, Etoya Hudson in Lenexa and Carrie Robertson in Memphis.
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