By Foster Stubbs, McKnights Home Care

With more than 50 years of experience as a nurse, Barbara Buttchen’s career has spanned 10 presidential administrations, five James Bond actors and one Chicago Cubs World Series title. Amid all that change, she has remained a steady presence for her patients just like one of her role models, Florence Nightingale.

“Before [Nightingale] put her head on the pillow at night, she would go out with her lantern and just try to make sure that there wasn’t anyone else ill or injured before she rested herself,” Buttchen told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. “When we were working eight, nine and 10 hours and then I would drive home from the hospital, I was just so tired. But I always felt that there was this higher power that was going to get me home safe and get me back to the hospital for my next shift. I always just felt that I’m living my purpose and that I would be protected and be given the strength to keep going.”

Buttchen, a former hospital nurse and now home care caregiver, was recently named National Caregiver of the Year by Maxim Healthcare Services (Maxim). The company, which offers private-duty nursing, skilled nursing, physical rehabilitation, personal care, respite care and behavioral care for individuals with chronic and acute illnesses and disabilities, honored her during a ceremony in Baltimore, MD, on Sept. 19 celebrating the company’s 35 years of service.

Buttchen’s career longevity and recognition is especially notable considering the obstacles that lay in her path. Not only did she balance her career with raising a family, she tended to a quadriplegic husband and was the primary breadwinner. As a working mom, she also battled lymphoma. With that being said, it’s no surprise her children decided to follow in her footsteps.

“Our daughter is an RN and our son became a CNA to help better take care of his second son with Down Syndrome,” she said. “I feel that even though it was terrible having the illness that their father had, it built even more sensitivity and bigger hearts in my children.”

Today, in her third year at Maxim, Buttchen serves one patient: Nathaniel, a 38-year-old man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. She’s worked with him and his parents for three years at their home and their bond is strong. Sometimes Nathaniel will even refer to her as “Grandma.” Just like a grandmother, she cares deeply about him and is proud of the person he has become.

“My heart goes out to him and I just try so hard to make him have a good day because he isn’t able to do some of the things that he wished he could do. But yet, he is not negative; he’s not angry,” Buttchen said.

When it comes to recruiting the next generation of caregivers, Buttchen has nothing but praise for her profession. Maybe someday she’ll be passing the torch to the next Florence Nightingale.

“When we had junior colleges come to our facility to do some nursing and CNA experiences, I always wanted to make sure that they knew that they would never be sorry working in healthcare,” Buttchen said. “You’re going to be able to also help your family and better help your community because you have this experience in healthcare. I don’t want to knock any other person’s work or job career, but after 52 years, I would do this again in a heartbeat.”

Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Special Projects Coordinator Foster Stubbs at [email protected].