October 2019 Aide of the Month — Migdalia Cortes
“I still remember my first client,” says Migdalia “Mickey” Cortes, our October Aide of the Month, with a tear in her eye. “Oh, how much I cried for her! Her name was Florence.” When Mickey started her career as a homecare aide 28 years ago, her first client was a challenge that would make even the most seasoned homecare workers tremble. Florence had dementia and was living in a squalid, cockroach-infested apartment where she actually fed the many cockroaches, treating them as her pets. But Mickey didn’t tremble. Instead she went to work, thoroughly cleaning the apartment and showering Florence, where she astutely discovered additional previously undetected physical issues. Mickey bravely went above and beyond the call of duty for Florence and for every client since then. The tears she shed for her were the first of countless tears she would shed over the course of her career—tears of love, joy, laughter, and heartache.
Mickey brings an ocean of love to her clients, developing strong relationships with each of them. “In all my clients, I see my mother, my father, my grandparents, and even my grandchildren because at one point, I took care of a 12-year-old child with cerebral palsy.” While she works hard doing whatever tasks are necessary for her clients, she never forgets that socialization is also a crucial component to their wellbeing. Even while doing other chores, she makes sure to engage and interact. “Most of my clients live by themselves. They feel lonely. They are sick. And I know that I make a difference when I’m there. I make them laugh. We talk. I treat them with love and respect. I care about them. I worry about them. I do what I am supposed to do.”
In addition to Mickey’s beautiful heart, she has a beautiful mind as well. Receiving straight As in school, she was chosen to attend CROEM, a select magnet high school in her native Puerto Rico, to which only the top students are allowed. After high school, she studied political science at a Puerto Rican university.
Though a career in the health industry wasn’t her first choice, Mickey unwittingly found herself pursuing homecare due to her cousin. Early after moving to the United States, her cousin begged her to join him in a four-month, intensive Home Health Aide training in New York City, stating that he needed his smart cousin to help him study. She agreed and quickly became the top student. After becoming an HHA, she discovered that homecare was a career that both challenged and fulfilled her.
Due to her skills and experience, Mickey very often is given difficult and special cases. Clients and their families are won over by her abilities and her love. One client recently told her “Promise me you’re going to be with me until I die.” Mickey very often is, even if it means visiting former clients, like Florence, her first client, whom she continued to visit for two years after she was moved to a nursing home and no longer in Mickey’s care.
Though Mickey had been told by a supervisor early in her career not to get emotionally involved with her clients, her reply was, “I’ve got a heart inside me. How can I help it?” Her beautiful heart is what makes her a superb aide, a wonderful mother to her six children, and a doting grandma to her seven grandchildren. Mickey has more than enough love and tears for each of her dear clients. Whether she’s battling cockroaches or simply making a client laugh, Mickey is a beautiful example of what it really means to be a caregiver: to genuinely care. “I adore my clients. I love them. I care about them,” she says, with a tear in her eye.