Teaching comes naturally to Blanca Rodriguez, a Rehabilitation Home Care Counselor with AHRC New York City’s Home Care Services. She enjoys working with people with disabilities and teaching them new skills.

There’s Irma Vega, a 70-year-old who lives alone. Blanca starts her day with Irma in Manhattan. Irma tries to make her own breakfast, but Blanca is there to help. She is teaching Irma how to use her ATM card to check her balance or to make a deposit. “She makes her bed and cleans her home,” Blanca says. “She knows how to do a lot now. Irma can go to the supermarket by herself now, to buy milk or a few simple things.”

Watching Irma and others she supports grow more independent is rewarding for Blanca. Teaching them and helping them learn lets her know she’s doing a good job.

“Goes Above and Beyond for People”

Blanca joined the Home Care team in 2017, having worked as a home health aide for people with disabilities before that. Before moving to New York, she spent 25 years as a paramedic in Puerto Rico, where she learned to treat people with disabilities in the field.

Blanca has gone above and beyond for the people she supports,” said Laura Williams, Staffing Coordinator. “She’s is very loving, caring, and patient. Families always call in to say what a good job she’s been doing with their family member receiving services.”

Even during the height of the pandemic, Blanca never called out and was always on time. She would take earlier subways from her home in the Bronx so she could avoid somewhat more crowded trains. Getting on a 6 a.m. subway didn’t bother her, as long as it meant she could be safe and on time for Irma at 9 a.m.

Forming Close Bonds

She describes the people she supports as family. Blanca has helped a man in his mid-50s implement reading and math skills – something he had never done before. “He was so happy to learn, write, read and count numbers,” Blanca said. “He can do basic arithmetic. I taught him to learn the computer. He can independently play simple games.”

She also supports a young woman who does not use words to communicate. She understands Blanca in Spanish and English, and she can shake her head or nod to indicate her preferences. “She loves to go out and walk,” Blanca said. “We walk on 125th Street, where she loves the clothing and toy stores.”

Blanca can read her facial and body language. Her eyes light up when she’s excited about doing something. When Rosa grabs Blanca’s hand, it’s time to walk. Rosa also enjoys using crayons in a coloring book. “She never knew how to color within the lines,” Blanca said. “Now she does a better job.”

Growing up in a home filled with nine nephews, her brothers, and her sister who had a disability, Blanca took it upon herself to help them with homework, learn to write, and help with chores.  She taught her sister, who is deceased, to write and color. She enjoyed sewing dresses for dolls. All of it has led to a lifelong desire to improve the lives of people like her sister.

All my life I teach people,” Blanca said. “I love to help people with disabilities. I have patience and a lot of love.”