For Theresa Boyd, making the decision to enlist with the U.S. Air Force was a no-brainer—both of her parents, her grandparents and her brother had all served in the military. “I liked the feeling that I was doing something to help my country and making my family proud,” says Theresa.
During her 10 years in the Air Force, Theresa was stationed in Maryland and South Korea, and was deployed to Afghanistan from 2009-2010. She left the Air Force in November 2015. Theresa was interested in pursuing a career in nursing after her military service; however, since her husband is a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, which keeps them moving around a lot, nursing school was not practical for their lifestyle.
Transitioning From Military to Civilian Work
With a wish to pursue a career in healthcare, Theresa decided to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) instead. She joined Right at Home Oahu as a caregiver for seniors and adults with disabilities, providing in-home care and assistance.
Theresa reaps the benefits of flexibility her job offers. Wherever her husband is stationed, she is likely to find work in the area, due to the increasing demand for caregivers to assist the growing elderly population. Now that Theresa and her husband have a baby, she can also create her own schedule to suit her busy life.
The Air Force veteran has successfully transitioned to civilian life and continues to give back to the veteran community by taking care of them in Oahu. Over 112,000 veterans currently live in Hawaii, and 26 percent of them reside on the island of Oahu.
A Veteran Caring for Veterans
Many of Theresa’s clients are pleasantly surprised to learn that their caregiver is also a veteran. “Sometimes I get a moment of pause from clients who are veterans because I’m a woman,” Theresa says. “But it works out well in the end because it gives me a starting point for us to get to know each other.”
Theresa’s veteran clients enjoy talking about their time in the service, and it can be refreshing for them to chat with someone who understands their stories and perspective. Her clients are proud to share their war stories and Theresa is happy to listen—something many of their families grow tired of after having heard the same stories over and over again for years.
“It’s very rare to meet senior men here in Hawaii who haven’t served or haven’t wanted to serve,” says Theresa. “I’m happy to be able to connect with them on that level.”
Caring for Veterans With Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia
While at school, Theresa learned skills and techniques to care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. But when it comes to practical application, caring for people living with cognitive changes can be challenging at times, especially when the symptoms of the disease present themselves differently on a daily basis.
“The unpredictability of it really throws me off sometimes,” says Theresa. “One day they may be lucid and then other days they are confused or even violent. What they are experiencing is very real to them and there’s nothing you can say or do to alter it. You just have to be patient and try to divert their attention to something else.”
Theresa referenced one of her veteran clients who is living with Alzheimer’s disease. When the client is experiencing a difficult time, Theresa tries to redirect him by finding common ground by talking about their time in the military.
“I feel like my time in the military provided me with a very solid work ethic,” Theresa says. “It taught me that you can’t give up when something gets hard—there’s no quitting. That mentality helps me ride out some of the tough days on the job.
“Being in the military was, and is, still a big part of my life. And I’m so honored to be able to use my military experience now to help my clients at this stage in their lives,” Theresa adds.