“You get so close. You see the person every day, and you see them like nobody else does,” says Reina Vasquez, a home health care provider. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

I was with one lady for 10 years. You see a lot happen to someone in 10 years, big changes and small things that only you notice at first, until that person doesn’t look like herself anymore. She had been a lieutenant colonel, very high up, very respected, and when I started she was still in charge. She still was running her life. But the longer I was with her, the more I did. She had all these people around her — not family — but someone to take care of her yard, the man to fix her house. It was not easy to watch. I know it wasn’t easy for her. She liked control. But she didn’t complain. She wasn’t like that. Her thinking was strong; her body wasn’t.

I cried and cried at her funeral. It was at Arlington Cemetery, and you should have seen it. All the soldiers and the guns, it was very powerful and beautiful. After she died, I said, “No more.” This is just too hard. It hurt too much. You get so close. You see the person every day, and you see them like nobody else does. After 10 years, she was a part of my life, and then she wasn’t. That was very, very hard. So I quit.

I got another job, but it wasn’t enough to pay the mortgage. See, that lady, my client, had told me that as a woman, I have to have something of my own. She said to me — all the time — “You have to take care of yourself. No one else will.” See, she had been in the military all her life. Always moving around. But she made sure to have a beautiful, big, nice house. “Stop renting, stop giving your money away to someone else,” she said. “Own a home.” So I did. I bought a house. I love it; it’s all mine. When I go home at night, it’s just me. My kids are grown. It’s sometimes too quiet. But I have good neighbors, people like me, who like to take care of one another.

So, I had to start doing home health care again; it’s what I know best. It’s where my heart is. I work with one man now. He is paralyzed from the neck down. I do everything for him, everything. Breakfast, bath, shampoo his hair, put on his diaper, clothes. It is a private job; you know so much about a person. I sometimes dream that he gets up and walks. I am trying not to get too close. I do my job, but it is not easy to not care too much, you know? My job is to care.