Richele Wilkins

by Tonya Dixon | November 18th, 2016
Richele Wilkins (Photos by Still Shots Photography)

Richele Wilkins (Photos by Still Shots Photography)

Richele Wilkins knows exactly why she was put on earth, so she’s not wasting anytime looking to anything else for fulfillment and purpose. A registered nurse of 20 years, she knows her destiny is to care for the elderly and disabled and teach others to do it as well.

Wilkins is the owner of Caring Hands Home Health. The company’s clientele varies, but by-and-large most are the elderly and disabled; and quite frankly, that’s by design.

Her desire to work with the segment of society that is so often overlooked and underserved began years ago when Wilkins was in rotation in nursing school. While at a nursing home, she was performing her normal duties such as taking food to one of the residents. While her intention was to drop the food off and scurry out as quick as possible, she was met with the following, “Honey, aren’t you going to open my milk for me?” It didn’t even dawn on Wilkins that she should do that or that the resident would have trouble doing it for herself.

That one encounter touched her heart to the point of purpose being revealed. She was meant to serve the elderly and disabled. “She taught me that it’s an honor and privilege to care for someone who has seen so much, been through so much and created so much history. It’s my pleasure to give them the very best care,” said Wilkins. “During a time in their life when they have done so much for everyone else and now they feel like they are forgotten and hopeless this is the time to lift them up and honor them for what they have done for us. They’ve been through a lot. So that’s my passion.”

Wilkins doesn’t do it for anything in return. Appreciation and gratitude are nice, but for her it’s not required.

“It goes beyond gratitude because there is a level of compassion that you have to have for an elderly person because that person may have Alzheimer’s Disease and cant tell you thank you. You have to find the empathy within yourself for motivation,” she said. “It’s empathy because I don’t know what it’s like to be 80-years-old and not be able to talk or move my own hands, but I can empathize with it. Regardless of whether they can say thank you or not it goes beyond that.”

“Many times when you talk about a 30 or 40 year old they are dealing with an acute problem. In other words they need you for a short period and most are thankful, but long-term care is different. These individuals usually have chronic issues and may never get better, so you take the gratitude when it’s offered, but mostly you just give from your heart because that’s what you love to do and that’s what God has divinely put in you to do.”

Having risen to the position of director of nurses at the nursing home where she worked, Wilkins still had a nagging desire and drive to help care for the elderly and disabled in their own homes, a place where she knew many of them desired to be anyway. Once she conceded to her convictions, she and an initial partner started Caring Hands Home Health in February 2002. “There is a place and need for a nursing home, but many times people can be kept at their own home and that’s where many of them want to be. For some of them all they need is for someone to help,” said Wilkins.

Caring Hands serves the Triad and surrounding areas with two offices in Greensboro and High Point, North Carolina. The company provides personal care services and ADLs or activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming, light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, home management, medication reminders and monitoring glucose and blood pressure levels.

Employing over 160 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Caring Hands is in high demand, but poised to thoroughly meet the needs of each client. It’s simply Wilkins’ way. Either her company operates in excellence and proficiency or it doesn’t operate at all.

“For a number of years Caring Hands taught adult PCA training classes. I’m just as passionate about the teaching and educating as I am about the care itself. As an owner of a business I’m no longer able to do much direct care, but I want to make sure the care we give is at a top-notch level,” said Wilkins. “Educating staff is very important to me to make sure they are providing the care that I would want for my own family or for myself.”

The longevity of Wilkins’ staff and low turnover rate is a testament to how well-functioning and unified the company is and has always been. She describes the company as a big family. More importantly, it’s Wilkins’ style of leadership that positively reverberates throughout the company and extends to the care of its clients.

“Most companies work like a pyramid with the leader sitting at the top and at the bottom of the pyramid are those working in the field. Everybody at the bottom is working to try to make more money for those at the top. But I embrace an inverted pyramid,” said Wilkins. “I’m working for my staff. I want to make sure that I’m their servant and that I do what’s necessary for them to successfully and efficiently do their job such as making sure my CNAs have top pay.”

In addition to a copacetic working environment, Caring Hands routinely has opportunities to express gratitude for its clients and employees.

Although the company is growing and progressing quite well, the road wasn’t always as clear and easy. In fact, Wilkins will be the first to admit that there was a time when things were quite rough. The single mother of one son, remembers days of having to use her own salary to make sure she met payroll and even having to share a loaf of bread to make sandwiches when finances were tight and that was all she could spare. But through dedication and trust in God, the road has become smoother.

“We are just a praying group of people. We ask God to help this business, but it hasn’t been easy. We have seen rough times. We have ridden the roller coaster of government agency changes with Medicaid, cutbacks, reform and all, but yet we are still here. Honestly it just because of the grace of God,” said Wilkins.

Caring Hands has grown such that Wilkins is looking toward partnership opportunities, especially with local hospitals and nursing facilities. However, she remains optimistically cautious regarding expansion. Her requirement to herself, employees and clients is to make sure quality continues to be the main focus.

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