Deborah Smith returned home to Edna, Texas, nine years ago. Two years ago, she went to work with Home Instead Senior Care® of Victoria, an award-winning franchise owned by Stephanie Niles. After 31 years in Houston, the CAREGiver of the Month is feeling at home more than ever. Said Deborah: "It keeps getting better and better."
"One client is more like a mother or grandmother because she is a friend of the family. We all went to the same church. In fact, I know the whole family and took care of her brother before I came to Home Instead Senior Care in late December 2015," said Deborah, a 1976 graduate of Edna High School who was born and raised in the city of 5,900 that's 25 miles northeast of Victoria on U.S. Highway 59.
Deborah's 95-year-old client has 14 hours of Home Instead service each week — exclusively with Deborah — and lives with a daughter. "I give the daughter a break. The client is used to having me and wants only me. I can encourage her to do necessary things when no one else can. I think that's the case because we have a good relationship, and she feels she's not giving in to a family member," Deborah said. "She wanders sometimes. So, we play cards to keep her occupied. I also am able to encourage her to exercise."
Deborah's work with the client and many others led to her selection as CAREGiver of the Month. She didn't enter professional senior care until she moved to Edna, but Deborah and her late husband enjoyed the seniors in their Houston neighborhood. "We bonded with them, helped them when we could and even took them out on excursions — like fishing trips — and made them as happy as possible," Deborah explained. "I owned a successful house-cleaning business for 17 years, but life changed when my husband died in 1998."
When Deborah moved back to Edna – the Jackson County capital that's 100 miles southwest of Houston – she wanted to care of her mother. "Mom is 90 now, is sharp as a tack and is doing reasonably well," Deborah said. "It's funny — when I graduated from high school, she wanted me to go to nursing school. So, I did — for three days – and then quit. I took one look at the large medical words and got a little intimidated. Now I wish I had stayed in nursing school."
Her mother lives 4½ miles from Deborah, outside Edna, where she "has a bunch of dogs." With a laugh, Deborah said, "She used to have chickens, but we made her give them up."
Deborah took an in-home health care job with another agency, but her hours dwindled as her clients moved to skilled nursing care facilities or passed away. Deborah tried private-duty care before she saw a newspaper advertisement for Home Instead Senior Care. Deborah had gained dementia-care experience while she was with a 98-year-old private-duty client at a memory-care unit and watched how the CNAs handled behaviors. But she said her Home Instead Senior Care training has been invaluable.
"I read the Home Instead Senior Care training book all the way through, frontwards and backwards, and pretty much memorized it. I learned a lot. It gave me a lot of good ideas. I have kept it and referred to it all the time," Deborah said. "So, I have done CAREGiver training for Home Instead. I encourage the new CAREGivers to take notes, write it all down. I think I have helped new employees because I am a people-person, and I relate well to others. I explain and teach, and have been doing it for a long time."
The training manual, of course, does not address such specific things as weathering a hurricane. For that, Deborah and other CAREGivers used their good common sense and wisdom, which came in handy last August when Hurricane Harvey struck. "I worked during the hurricane because we had clients in Edna who did not evacuate. I lived about a half-mile from one client and went there to relieve another CAREGiver when it became safe to do so. It was challenging, but I thought: 'Someone has to do this, it might as well be me,'" Deborah said with a laugh.
Deborah likes her work. "It can be challenging, but I get attached to my clients. I am kind to them, love them and am sad when I lose them. I am happy with Home Instead. I have a good boss who is forward-looking. The company's territory is expanding. It's a good deal."
All Home Instead Senior Care CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about CAREGiver employment, please apply online or call 361-433-0330. For additional home care information visit Home Instead Senior Care.
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