After Katrina, Annie Returned to Big Easy, Found Home Instead

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Hours after Annie offered her evening prayers and went to bed, God sent a stunningly powerful and vivid dream to the successful career businesswoman. Annie saw herself gritting her teeth and tightly clutching the front railing of her house with both hands as surging floodwater swept over her head while heavy rain pelted down and a horribly strong wind howled. As thousands of New Orleans residents later experienced, it was a scene straight out of hell.

Startled, Annie awoke at 4:20 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005, and sprang into action. “I had sat out every other hurricane that hit New Orleans,” Annie said, “and I was going to do the same with this one. But God was sending me a message: ‘Don’t be stubborn and disobedient – get out of New Orleans now. Don’t take time to gather up all your possessions – just get your daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, and leave.’ I called out to them and said, ‘We have to leave now.’ They know my strong faith in God and acted. We left my SUV and my daughter’s car, and got into my son-in-law’s Ford Expedition and left town. All I had was a little duffel bag of items.”

On Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina and its 125 mph winds hit New Orleans with the power of a nuclear explosion, and things haven’t been the same since. Eighty percent of New Orleans was submerged in water after many of the city’s levees breached. After the mayhem, the flood swamped her house in the Gentilly neighborhood, peaking at 9½ feet of water. Every family picture, piece of china, antique, irreplaceable personal effect – all of it was gone. But Annie and her family members safely escaped.

“Losing everything at home was mind-numbing, but it was only ‘stuff,’ ” Annie said, her voice rising to heavily emphasize the word “stuff.” “Others lost much more – their lives.” Three and a half years later, Annie returned to a new house and found a job with the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise that serves New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

“God led me to this wonderful job. He knew I wanted badly to return to my home in New Orleans, and He provided new ‘things’ and a job that was pleasing to Him and me,” Annie said.

Working as a CAREGiver is nothing like what Annie was doing before Katrina hit and the subsequent years when she moved first to Houston and then to Dallas. In total, Annie worked for 12 years for a U.S.-based Fortune 500 financial corporation that specializes in credit cards, home loans, auto loans and banking and savings products. “I stepped away from that corporation, in effect retiring from that line of work, because I would have had to remain in Texas to keep my position,” Annie said. “I am from New Orleans and wanted to return. I still had my parents, and I wanted to come home to help them. They were more important to me than any well-paying job 500 miles away. There is no place like home.”

Annie said after she permanently returned from Texas, a family member recommended Home Instead Senior Care after hearing good things about the franchise in Metairie, owned by Lisa Rabito. Plainly and emphatically, Annie loves Home Instead Senior Care and what she does as a CAREGiver. In fact, she recently was honored as CAREGiver of the Month.

“I love it so much that I’ve often said I feel as though I was shortchanged in life and should have been helping out seniors and others much earlier in my working life instead of spending my time in finance and business,” Annie said. “Getting the chance to work with Home Instead Senior Care is such a gift. There is serious compassion going on with Home Instead CAREGivers and staff. I’ve got to tell you, the staff is awesome, just unbelievable.”

Annie lost her dad in 2012, but her mother is still going strong at age 90. “I help both my mother and my 96-year-old mother-in-law and fit Home Instead around that,” Annie said.  “Compassion is in my family and in my blood, and is important to me. God has put this in me and empowered me to do this job.”

Annie’s favorite Bible verse is Matthew 6:33 (“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”), and she feels God’s hand in her caregiving. “I have not had one bad day since I started. As a Christian, I pray before each shift that I can help my client and love them,” she said.

Annie’s trademark is a hug, and any of her clients knows a big hug is coming at the start of each shift. “I am a hugger. With a hug and encouraging words,” Annie said, “the clients know there is sincerity and genuineness because they can feel it. It does something for them. My dad had dementia, and hugs calmed him.”

Beyond liberally giving out hugs, Annie noted that each client is different and receives whatever is necessary to remain safe and happy. “I deal with each situation as it comes,” said Annie, who has two regular clients and works between 30 and 36 each week. “Sometimes I am on the go too much, and I want to keep myself at my best for my mother, mother-in-law and clients. Home Instead really helps because it has been flexible.”

Annie’s mother-in-law tells her, “Annie sit down and visit a while. You are always working too hard.” Annie admits she’s always up for a good story or two. “I love hearing personal backgrounds and histories,” Annie said. “Stories get the clients to thinking and remembering – and that’s good. They also know I am interested in them and in who they are. One client was a retired bar pilot who had all kinds of stories; there were three generations of bar pilots in the family.”

Some clients tell Annie about their Katrina experiences. Because God revealed the horror and destruction of the coming hurricane to Annie before it even arrived, she refused to watch the television coverage. But looking back at Katrina while balancing those trying days against her subsequent time of renewal in New Orleans, Annie said: “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. As long as God gives me strength and health, I will be staying with Home Instead.”

All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call 504-455-4911 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit our website.


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