Many years before she joined Home Instead Senior Care®, Michelle Habrecht was working on her master's degree in social work at a private San Antonio university. After surveying the demographic of those who lived in her apartment building, Michelle set up an informal meeting place in the building for the elderly residents. "On Saturdays," Michelle said, "I'd buy coffee and donuts for them. We'd chat."
What developed was quite a story. As a result of the weekly get-togethers, Michelle and a lonely elderly woman who lived across the hall became good friends. "This lady changed my life," Michelle recalled, her voice cracking with waves of emotion as she revealed a poignant period in her life. "Actually, both of our lives changed. I helped her with many things, such as medical appointment transportation, for three years."
One day in a medical office, a doctor told Michelle's friend she had dementia. It was a diagnosis that did not surprise Michelle. She immediately contacted her friend's family, told them about the diagnosis and explained what dementia was.
"I knew I had to be with her more, so I took over and shouldered her challenges as I had time. It was not a job; it was a passion," Michelle noted. "I executed the bill-paying for her and made her meals. After her dementia got worse, she came to live with me. She slept in my bedroom, and I slept on an AeroBed in my living room. She could not remember where the bathroom was, so I helped her with that. I tried to do everything I could for her."
Then Michelle's friend began wandering outside the apartment building while Michelle was at work. Michelle again alerted the woman's family, and Michelle's friend was placed in a memory-care unit. "When I visited," Michelle said, "she did not remember me, but she always has been in my heart."
Fast-forward to May 1, 2017, when Michelle joined owner Tyson Murphy's award-winning Home Instead Senior Care office in Round Rock, which also serves north Austin, Sun City and other nearby communities. A shining comet of compassion and caring who made an immediate impact with clients and their families, Michelle was first honored as a CAREGiver of the Month and later as the franchise's 2017 CAREGiver of the Year.
What drives Michelle to excel in senior care?
"For me, it's 100 percent God. I feel privileged by the Big Man Upstairs to be able to help others. That God utilizes me is not of my own doing. It is a gift from God, and I love joining with Him to help others," Michelle said.
She pointed out that faith plays a part in everything she does. "I was born this way. Faith is everything. I cannot go through life without walking with God. It is a blessing to have this job, and every day brings a new blessing. It is in my heart and soul. Am I a perfect person? No, but I learn from my mistakes and go on," Michelle said.
"I love protecting people, helping them and empowering them. Whatever you are capable to giving back to society, you should."
Of course, the job has its challenges. Not only that, but clients are lost through death or by being moved to a facility. Michelle said she knows her limits and guards against feeling overwhelmed.
"I set aside family time; and I do have a wonderful, supportive family. But I also take time to do things for me, including horseback riding and hiking, that provide solitude. Once I am in the pasture, I feel peace and tranquility," Michelle explained. "God wants us to laugh and have a good time and not remain serious all the time. I laugh easily and have a sense of humor. We should find a piece of happiness and peace. It's all a journey. Every client is a new journey."
Asked about her future, Michelle emphasized she loves her job, her clients and their families and the franchise office staff and other CAREGivers. "But," she said, "I take it one day at a time. A wing and a prayer. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I talk to God day and night, and try to discern what He has in mind for me."
All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are
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