Right at Home Burbank caregiver Maria Castro has been selected as the 2022 West Regional Caregiver of the Year.
The Caregiver of the Year Award is a prestigious honor amongst staff members of Right at Home, where upwards of 25,000 caregivers are employed at any given time. The honor highlights their best workers nationally who have a strong track record of exceeding professional expectations. Regional offices must first submit their nominations for the annual award, which are then evaluated by a committee and narrowed down to a total of 24 finalists. Eight regional winners are next selected in the final stage of the process.
This year, the Right at Home corporate office received a total of 422 nominations for the West Regional award before selecting Castro as their victor in January. Right at Home Director of Employee Experience Stacey Buechler says this choice, which was formally announced in April, was made easy as a result of Castro’s dependability and dedicated work ethic.
“What I will say about Maria and all the winning caregivers, they are so humble. They don’t expect the recognition, but yet they are so deserving of it,” Buechler said. “With Maria in this particular office, she is that one constant that they know, if they have a difficult client, a hard-to-fill shift, a last minute shift, they just know that Maria is their go-to person … She’s a very loyal caregiver, but she’s also very adaptable and flexible to the situation.”
Castro has served as a Certified Nursing Assistant for Right at Home since 2012, and in this time she has cared for over 100 clients in Burbank. While Castro has provided caregiving services regionally, she has remained local due to the positive work environment of Right at Home Burbank and the variety of clients she’s been connected with.
“I’ve been everywhere in L.A., … and it’s been a very fun place to work, and I really enjoy it,” Castro said. “I get the chance to go places that I have never been to meet different people. Some people are very interesting. I like their stories. It’s been a good place to work for me.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Castro has continued to provide crucial care to clients while following all health and safety guidelines. Although she describes this as a “very scary” time in her career field, Castro says there was no other choice for her but to be on the frontlines and keep clients safe. While the pandemic was at it worst stages, she carried out grocery shopping, offered companionship services, and delivered hands-on care to clients.
“It was very difficult,” Castro said. “It was difficult for [clients], it was difficult for us. But we managed everything. As a caregiver, I tried my best to manage [how close I was] to them. And sometimes when we … [picked up] the groceries, we spent maybe 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour in line just to go inside the store … All caregivers, we worked hard, and we did the best we could for them because it was not safe for them to be out there.”
In spite of her highly-regarded reputation and selflessness as a caregiver, Castro was taken by surprise when she was informed that she’d won the award. She was first nominated for the Caregiver of the Year honor in 2018, making this well-deserved achievement even more fulfilling as she takes the 2022 title.
“I said, ‘Really? Is that possible? How could I win?’ I mean, there’s so many caregivers,” Castro said as she recalled learning of her victory. “[I was] so excited. And I told my patient that I work with … He got so excited and we got all excited. For me, it means I’m doing a good job. It means that I’m doing the best I can, [and] I’m doing my best with every single patient.”
At the end of the day, Castro’s focus remains on the well-being of her caregiving recipients. She says her mission is to not simply to fulfill her work duties, but to also spread joy and positivity to her clientele as she does so.
“It feels really nice. It’s not a job for me,” Castro said of caregiving. “If I can bring some happiness for a few hours, if I can make them feel better, get [them] out of that routine that they have and do something else … If they’re happy, I’m happy for them. It makes me feel very happy when I see a patient happy.”