Michelle Habrecht slid from her chair, plopped down on the living room floor and shared a soulful cry with the daughter of a hospice client. Tears flowed as the emotion of the moment overtook them. "There we were, bawling our eyes out like babies," Michelle recalled. "There is stress in life. You must acknowledge it and deal with it, but not surrender to it. You've got to let stress go, and that is what we were doing together. Of course, the clients always come first. But I am there as much for the clients' family members as I am for the clients."
Such is the compassionate heart of the CAREGiver of the Year for Home Instead Senior Care® of North Austin, Round Rock and Sun City, owner Tyson Murphy's award-winning franchise.
"I get into 'The Moment.' Nothing else matters but the client and family. It is their saga, their story, not mine. I am there for them," said Michelle, who joined Home Instead Senior Care on May 1, 2017, and made an immediate impact with clients and their families.
"It is an honor to try to connect with them and their families. I try to figure out their journeys and how best to relate to them and help them. My goal is to be the best I can be for the clients and their families. I am an open book to them because I want them to know I am totally committed to helping in any way I can." Michelle thought for a moment and added: "I love being a CAREGiver. You shouldn't be in this business if you don't feel something for people."
Michelle, in addition to fill-in shifts, has two regular clients and generally works weekdays. She's available on weekends if there is an emergency.
One client is a male who has dementia and is trying to bounce back from a fall. He has named his arthritis "Arthur." Michelle meets his needs and tries her best to help him lessen the effects of "Arthur." Although the client sometimes is reluctant to take part in his 30-minute daily exercises, Michelle knows the routine by heart. She not only helps by leading but also provides positive encouragement. "Sometimes he will smile and respond, but 'Arthur' has taken over. But once we get started with the exercise program, he never complains," Michelle said.
"Of course, you would never 'order' a client to do anything. I tell him, 'We want to keep you going. You have so much to offer to those around you that we want you to enjoy them and your life to the fullest. We want you to feel as good as possible.' Sometimes he'll smile and respond with a pseudo grumpy 'Good for you.' "
The client laughs and jokes often. Michelle noted: "For instance, he says, 'My get-out-and-go has gotten up and gone.' In addition, my assistance allows his wife to remain active with her seasonal theme-store business, and now is the time when she is the busiest."
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Michelle assists a widow who is a retired nurse. "She is more like a girlfriend than a client. She loves to laugh. She has a wonderful dog, and we laugh about her pet. We go, go, go. She likes to stay active, and nothing stops her. When I come in at 9 a.m. Thursday, my client goes to get her hair done. There is, of course, a pedicure that usually takes place on a Tuesday morning at a nail salon. Among other things, we go grocery shopping, and I take iPhone pictures of food items for comparison purposes that help her make decisions. The time goes too fast: We have to wrap up by noon."
From her many memorable moments in just seven months as a CAREGiver, Michelle also recalled:
Michelle ties her passion for people to her family and faith. "I was born this way. It is my extreme passion, my calling and my mission. My parents were the best in the world. They were compassionate, and I find myself going down that path. I miss Dad; he has been gone nine years. He was a faith-driven person."
Michelle's love for the elderly may have started with her grandmother, who lived a distance away. Michelle made every moment count when they were together. "When we visited, I would sit and listen to her stories when I was 14 or 15. She would share her life with me," Michelle recalled. "In high school, I worked at a retirement home. It was like a piece of heaven to me."
When asked about the length of her caregiving experiences, the Leander resident laughed and said: "My whole life." Michelle earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Texas in Austin. She also earned a master's degree in social work from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Michelle and her husband are family caregivers in a three-generation household that includes three children and Michelle's mother, who is blind as the result of temporal arteritis. For Michelle, being a CAREGiver is great because of the job flexibility.
Michelle doesn't believe it was 'by chance' that she found Home Instead Senior Care one day on the internet. "I came across a Home Instead advertisement during a job search. I just need to get out and do something I am passionate about, where I can have a blast. When I saw Home Instead, I thought to myself, 'This is up my alley.' I did my homework on the company and loved what I saw. I learned why Paul and Lori Hogan founded the company in 1994. They helped a grandmother but also needed someone to help them. They met a need and continue to do so with this company."
Michelle added: "I love everything about it. It is chicken soup for my soul. I forget everything else when I walk in my clients' door – I never think about anything but them. In every respect of life that day, I hit 'restart' and go where they are emotionally and physically. In fact, every morning, I say a prayer before I arrive at a client's house. Among other things, I ask God to allow me to help them in just the right way that day."
All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call 512-374-1414 or apply online. Visit our Home Instead Senior Carewebsite for further information about.