One of the latest meldings of Ford's real and adopted families are William and Naomi Royalty, residents of McDowell Place, an assisted-living facility in Danville.
As she does for her other clients, Ford sits with the couple overnight and in the early morning, providing basic needs such as making sure medications are taken on time, helping with baths, helping prepare in-room meals, assisting with clothing and dressing, and doing some light cleaning.
More than a paycheck
For these chores, Ford says she gets a lot more than a paycheck.
"The Royalties are such sweet, special people, and that makes taking care of them a pleasure, not work," she says. "I feel like a longtime friend, even kind of like a daughter."
Naomi Royalty has similar kind things to say about Ford.
"We have come to know Jeanene in our senior years, and she not only has helped us with our everyday lives but also in emergencies, or whatever needs to be done," Royalty says. "She is the epitome of a blessing."
Ford counts her mother's family as her blessing. Born to the late William "Bunny" Davis, a prominent, popular and legendary Danville athlete, community leader and public servant, and Alma McCowan of Danville, she was taken under the wings of her grandmother and others in the McCowan clan.
"The McCowans taught me the value of caring for other people," she says. "They did caregiving for a living, but it also was their own way of life."
Ford also appreciated the Davis side of her family, especially her half-brother and two half-sisters. "I dearly love my half-brother John Davis. I still call him 'Snooks' to this day," she says with a laugh.
After graduating from Danville High School in 1971, Ford attended Kentucky Business College and then landed a job as a dispatcher with Danville Police Department. She worked for the department for 13 years and left in 1992 when she was feeling "burn-out real bad."
She then turned what had been a side job into a full-time career.
"I had been doing some caregiving on a part-time basis since I was 20," she says. "When I left the department, I didn't have to think twice about what I was going to do for a permanent job. And I got my education for this job - my degree, you might even say - from my grandmother and mother."
Ford has worked for numerous Danville individuals, couples and families over the years, and the list includes several prominent people, such as the late Cecil Dulin Wallace, a noted preservationist, and the late Helen Davis, a leader in local education.
"Dulie was a very special, very interesting person, and Mrs. Davis, as prominent and smart a lady as she was, was so down-to-earth, sweet and kind to me," says Ford. "I was with Mrs. Davis for six years, and she treated me like I was a friend, not like I was an employee, and that's the kind of experience that has made caregiving such a wonderful vocation."
What has continually impressed and sometimes even surprised Ford has been not only the warmth and friendliness of her clients but also their almost immediate acceptance of her.
"These people basically have opened up their homes to a perfect stranger and given me not only a job but their trust and eventually their friendship and love," she says. "I may start out as an employee, but I end up being treated like a friend or even a family member."
When Ford is finished with her duties at McDowell Place, where she's had clients for more than five years, she is not done as a caregiver. She takes care of her mother, who is now 86, and also tends to her seven grandchildren, the offspring of her daughter, Erica, and son, Maurice.
While she has thrived in her career as a caregiver, Ford wants to take her vocation to another level.
"I plan to start my own caregiving business," she says. "There are at least two companies of caregivers in town, but there is definitely room for one more, and the one I plan to have will be affordable to many people who need help with their loved ones."
If Ford needs a reference for her new endeavor, she won't have to go far to get one.
"Jeanene is an amazing person," says Naomi Royalty. "I have never known anyone in need that she would not help, no matter their race, income or social standing and no matter if she is their employer or their friend or someone she doesn't even know. She is one of the most compassionate people I have ever known."