My name is Karin Westphal and I am the founder, owner and director of First Class Caregiving, an internationally recognised college that offers accredited courses in the practice of caregiving and assistant nursing, two highly sought after skills in the 21st century.
I have won several international awards for entrepreneurship and consistently high quality service. Among these are the Business Excellence Award from the World Confederation of Businesses and the Prestige Award from Corporate LiveWire. Statistically, every 4 seconds, someone somewhere in the world is diagnosed with dementia. You might be wondering why this particular ailment, out of all the pathologies acquainted with the human race, has been mentioned. Dementia is a neurological disease that either rapidly or slowly progresses. This is extremely significant because its progressive nature renders individuals with this affliction increasingly dependent upon others. Naturally, dementia sufferers’ closest family members offer assistance in the early stages of the diagnosis but as time passes, the disease claims more of the victims’ faculties, leaving them more vulnerable and less capable of leading independent lives. Tasked with this responsibility, families, who often lack the training and the skills required to provide effective care, soon become overwhelmed and distressed. Enter First Class Caregiving! Equipped with all the essential knowledge about dementia and its nature, we train students to identify the signs and symptoms and to aid their patients to go on living their lives as productively as possible with as much comfort as can be provided. It is not only dementia-ridden individuals who require daily hands-on care but also the immobile, the handicapped, the elderly in general and even young members of society who may be afflicted by the wide spectrum of diseases that continue to haunt human society.
The anatomy of the human body and the structure of the brain along with all its capabilities have never ceased to fascinate me. As a student, I consistently received the highest scores for Biology, among other subjects, often just shy of a perfect score. I dreamed of becoming a doctor, a potential outcome that very nearly materialised when I was awarded a scholarship in 1983 after graduating from secondary school. Financial and familial circumstances cut short my pursuit of a career as a medical practitioner. Forced to take another path, I shelved my personal interests for the foreseeable future. Yet, as I will explain, my hopes would later play a prominent role yet again.
Although First Class Caregiving boasts many accolades and worldwide recognition, its success was not achieved overnight, far from it in fact. The company is a product of evolution, a process that began back in 1996 when my son was born. He was a sickly child who suffered from asthma and contracted bronchitis and pneumonia on several occasions. Frequent trips were made to the hospital and a significant portion of his time as a toddler and his childhood was spent recovering from sickness. It is safe to assume that any mother would want her child to be healthy. I was no exception to that norm but circumstances had turned out contrary to my hopes. The reality of the situation had dawned upon me but I refused to accept it. Yet, there has never been an obstacle in my life too vast for me to overcome. Since childhood, I have sought to reinvent myself by harnessing my inner strength, a fact that I soon remembered along with my childhood dreams. His ill heath had awoken my passions that had been lying dormant on the backburner for so long and set me on a 26 year course of self-discovery, wisdom and ingenuity, with many twists and turns along the way, a journey that has culminated in the success I currently enjoy.
When I finally accepted the challenge brought about by my son’s condition, doors began to open and I saw an opportunity to put into practice what I had learned about human health. I began training others to provide the care I had become accustomed to giving my son but this was no easy feat. It was abundantly clear that the vast majority of people lacked basic knowledge of the world, of the body and of realities that affect us every day. I had to find a way to bridge that gap, an aim which I successfully achieved with many of my students. I gained experience as a teacher by being exposed to growing multitudes of people and, along the way, I gathered immense and profound wisdom that I utilise to keep improving upon my methods of teaching. Yet, even today, all these years later, it remains a challenge in this industry to correct common misconceptions about healthcare and to encourage students to foster within themselves the hallmark values of a good, professional caregiver. It is not merely the act of caregiving that I demonstrate to my pupils. I teach them the value of discipline, honesty, respect, diligence and attentiveness. Unfortunately, these values are often sorely lacking and this negatively affects the quality of care that clients/patients receive. This a major problem in the industry. Hence, my attempts to relay life lessons to the learners. As one former student of mine put it, students enrol at my college in the hope of receiving instruction in the practice of caregiving and assistant nursing and find the “school of life.” In the country from which I currently operate, public healthcare provided by the government is of such profoundly poor quality that patients who are admitted into hospital, nursing homes and other government-run medical institutions run the risk of suffering further damage to their health, with many being discharged with significantly declined health, novel illnesses and/or further complications. In the worst scenarios, patients leave their sick beds dead. Others are physically and mentally abused, a scandal that is criminally underreported in the country. As I have demonstrated, there is a lack of well-trained, dedicated medical practitioners who live up to the honour of their title. Sources have admitted to me that old age homes in the country are becoming less viable and some are now facing closure amid a rise in families taking their beloved elderly kin out of these homes and either becoming their full-time carers or employing private, stay-in caregivers whose work can be monitored more closely. In terms of quality, First Class Caregiving has become the number one solution to this problem.
For the reasons explained throughout this article, First Class Caregiving, while it may be classified a company, can be more accurately described as a project, an ongoing project that seeks to achieve new levels of understanding, expertise and ,subsequently, greater heights of success. Our reach has gradually expanded. Enquiries pour into our inbox in the thousands every month as people from across the country and the globe become increasingly familiar with the name First Class Caregiving. There is no doubt that the institution has lived up to its name and, therefore, deserves its reputable title. It is quite audacious to proclaim to be of the “First Class” but it is precisely my audacity that has brought me thus far. My advice to others would be to find the inner determination to succeed and nothing will ever stop you. Stop sitting on the couch, texting your friends on the mobile and , instead, pick yourself up and get moving, study, visualise and achieve. A person can be his/her own worst enemy or they can succeed. As a child, a teacher asked me to name an example of extreme opposites and my choice of example was success and failure. So, which one are you going to choose? I also advise against taking this career path or opening a caregiving and nursing college if all you hope to do is make money. Caregiving and nursing or the act of providing instruction in these fields should be a passion. You will earn your financial rewards in due course. When students sign up to study the caregiving course at the college, they receive tuition for 10 free nursing units and their corresponding certificates. These courses are US based and my right to teach these courses costs me a pretty penny annually. Nonethless, I offer the courses at an affordable and reasonable price and the doors are wide open to anyone who wishes to learn and excel.
Many former students have gone on to obtain employment both locally and abroad. My oldest student on record was 68 when she completed the course and was offered the role of manager in a nursing home. Another became a trainer and recruiter herself in the UK while another middle aged lady secured a position on a wealthy estate just outside London. These are but a few examples and the list keeps growing. First Class Caregiving has the unique opportunity at this moment in time to meet the growing demand for qualified caregivers and, in the process, drastically improve the quality of healthcare in a country where these expertise are so scarce.
My personal and professional motto as seen in my signature is: “The Power of Devotion Brings Success.” It was the power of light that lit up the world and wherever First Class Caregiving is concerned, the light will shine bright. I invite you to step into the light and join us on our ongoing journey. If you would like to sign up to join our family, please email us directly at email@example.com or visit our website at www.firstclasscaregiving.co.za for more information.
(Written and edited by Dean Jarvis. Email address: AlexanderDeanJarvis@outlook.com)