Karen Penkert is a goal-setter and has a passion for whatever she does. In her hometown of Miles, a three-hour drive southeast of Lubbock, she was a highly decorated high school student-athlete who earned four district and three all-state academic honors in volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field. When she graduated in 2014, she headed to Texas Tech University.Karen was on course to receive a Red Raider diploma in three years, but she shifted to double majors in kinesiology and sports management, and now plans to graduate in May 2018. Before she joined Home Instead Senior Care® of Lubbock in October 2015, Karen had thought about a career in athletic training or physical therapy. Now she’s not so sure because of her fulfilling senior-care job that included training and support from the Home Instead Senior Care staff. “I might go into nursing,” the February CAREGiver of the Month said, “because the awesome experience of working with my client has caused me to reconsider what I want to do. With kinesiology, I have a strong base. I would just need a couple of classes to get moving toward nursing school.”For Karen, it appears there are many career options and the sky’s the limit for achievement. She defines success in terms of the personal fulfillment of helping others. “I have a passion for people and sports, but my client makes it hard to follow a sports training track. I know now there are other careers where I could fill the need to help people,” Karen said. “I started down this road when I helped my best friend’s grandmother for five years. My sister is taking care of her now.”A friend, who is a CAREGiver, suggested Tracy and Terry Baugh’s award-winning franchise when Karen began searching for job at the start of her sophomore year. “Home Instead Senior Care seemed to be the best route to a job, based on my previous care experiences,” Karen said. “I am a sensitive, soft-hearted person. I considered that this could be a tough job if a client gets to the point of having to go to skilled nursing or passes away. For that reason, I questioned whether I could do the job. I wondered if something like that would deflate me.”Karen hasn’t yet encountered that side of caregiving, but she has experienced the best feelings from helping someone. “I have one regular client, and I am with her all the time. I absolutely adore her. She is my best friend.” Karen said. “Once I got to know my client and created such a friendship, I felt great. She is brilliant, a smart lady. She told her doctor all about me when I went with her on an appointment.”Recruitment and Engagement Coordinator Juanita Camacho said: “Karen is one of our youngest CAREGivers, but she has the heart of a veteran CAREGiver. Karen works well with a high-skill client and does it as if she’s been doing it for years.” Karen quickly won over the 96-year-old client, who sometimes takes a while to warm up to new CAREGivers. “I was prepared to ‘not get along’ at the start, but she took an immediate liking to me,” said Karen, who began assisting the client in November 2015. “Two weeks after I started, she began calling me ‘Jean.’ I thought: ‘Is she confused?’ Then I spoke with her daughter. She told me: ‘Jean is her close cousin. She calls you “Jean” because you remind her of her cousin. It is the biggest compliment you could receive.’ So, I have never corrected her.”Juanita pointed out that Karen “goes with the flow” and takes things as they come. “Karen is proactive and takes the initiative with our clients and their needs, and she stays positive, upbeat, and happy. Karen is respectful of everyone with whom she works, including clients, family, staff, co-workers and medical professionals. Karen is diligent, and she follows through and completes all tasks in a timely manner. She is extremely reliable. Karen has great communication skills both verbal and written,” Juanita noted. Karen recalled a day when her client made a difference in her life. “I was having a difficult time, including school challenges and recent family deaths. I did not say anything and tried to conceal my troubles by being careful with my body language, but somehow, she could tell something was wrong. She has a sixth sense,” Karen recalled. “She grabbed my hands and said a prayer: ‘Thank you, God, for my son and daughter, and thank you for this precious person and all she does for me.’ It was an emotional moment. Days later, I asked her about the occasion, but she could not recall. I told her, ‘You touched my heart and adjusted my attitude and the way my heart was working.’ She was happy. She is always praying for me.”Juanita summed it up by saying, “We are blessed to have Karen as a part of our team. She truly deserves to be recognized as CAREGiver of the Month.”
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