CAREGiver of the Month Yolanda Davila is a hero. She answered the call to help her clients Aug. 24 when category 4 Hurricane Harvey rambled ashore in south Texas near Rockport and menaced the Lone Star State and Louisiana with record flooding and horrible destruction as an organized storm until Sept. 3.
Yolanda responded when the mandatory evacuations were ordered for the area encompassing her husband-and-wife clients' home near Refugio, about 45 miles southwest of Victoria, where owner Stephanie Niles' Home Instead Senior Care® franchise is situated. Yolanda arrived on Thursday afternoon to pack for her clients and provide overnight care. The clients' son transported them by car at 7 a.m. Friday, Aug. 25, as the wind and rain began to intensify. They drove to New Braunfels, about 125 miles away, where the clients' daughter lives.
In Victoria, where Yolanda and her family live – including four children between the ages of 10 and 19 – an evacuation also had been ordered. So, Yolanda also packed for her family on Thursday morning so her husband and children could travel separately on Friday to a San Antonio hotel.
"The clients' daughter asked me if I would go with her parents and ride out the storm in New Braunfels with her and her husband. I packed three days of clothes for the clients; I had packed four days of clothes for myself. The husband client thought we would be back Sunday, Aug. 27, and I thought it would be a day later. Little did we know … ," Yolanda said with a laugh.
Yolanda's clients were in New Braunfels from Aug. 25 to Sept. 12, and Yolanda was there for 10 straight days, all of them 24-hour shifts. Then Yolanda was off for three days to check out her Victoria home and help her family before returning to her clients for five more days of service. In all, it added up to 17 days of care during a 19-day period that started Aug. 24 in Refugio.
"Initially," Yolanda said, "the client husband wanted to ride out the storm at home, which was roughly 35 miles from where Hurricane Harvey came in from the Gulf. I am glad we did not try it, because I was in a hurricane in Victoria years ago. We had no water or electricity for four days. This time, we would have gone at least nine to 10 days without those basic things."
Yolanda left her car at the clients' house, but it was not damaged badly. Mold accumulated where the wind-blown water seeped in near the doors. At the clients' home, some shingles were gone, a gazebo was blown apart and double windows and the garage doors were destroyed. There was a lot of tree debris, and the home's water pump was too badly damaged to work. The family and others had to remove tree debris from behind Yolanda's car to get it out.
In New Braunfels, everything went well, but the clients and Yolanda couldn't completely escape the broad arms of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. There was off-and-on rain and some wind, but not as nearly bad as Victoria and Refugio experienced.
Yolanda had assisted the 89-year-old husband and his 90-year-old wife since December 2016, and she was accustomed to 12- to 16-hour shifts that included overnight care. At night, Yolanda helps the wife with personal care a couple of times and repositions her in bed every two hours. "In recent months," Yolanda said, "I had been with them from 8 p.m. to 11 a.m., so 24-hour care was fine. We settled into a good routine that they had had in their home.
"The clients enjoyed the extra bonus time with their daughter. The husband termed it as a mini-vacation and viewed it positively. He loved 'having ice cream, Cheetos and steak all the time.' Since I packed four sets of clothes, and the clients had three sets, it was continually 'wash and wear, wash and wear.' Everything went great for me in New Braunfels. The clients' family was grateful and took good care of me."
Yolanda said the clients were not panicked by the hurricane or change of living quarters. "The client wife has dementia. We constantly had to tell her where she was and why she was there, and she was satisfied with the explanation. She liked it and wasn't ready to home. She smiled a lot. Now, after having returned to their home, the wife doesn't remember the trip," Yolanda said.
Communications could be tricky because of cell tower damage or too many calls trying to go through the jammed cell towers that were working. "I talked to my family, who was not far away in San Antonio, every night from New Braunfels. Of course, they missed me, but they knew it was temporary."
She added: "Stephanie tried to contact me at New Braunfels. I had no service when trying to reach her; she was in the Houston area and had her own challenges. The clients' daughter finally got in touch with Stephanie on Aug. 29 or 30 and gave updates. Thankfully, all was well."
Yolanda's home was without electricity for nine days. "My mother came and cleaned out our refrigerator. and we lost a lot of groceries. We came out OK, with only minor roof damage. It was a God thing that we did not have more damage because many nice houses near our home were badly damaged," Yolanda said. "There was obvious tornado damage in some places."
Stephanie, the franchise owner, arranged for Yolanda to receive money from the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation's Disaster Relief Fund. Other CAREGivers also received assistance from the fund that was supported by other Home Instead franchise owners, Home Instead corporate office personnel and many others. "I really appreciated the help," Yolanda said.
Stephanie pointed out: "Yolanda did a great job, just as our other CAREGivers did if circumstances allowed them to help clients. Pure and simple, it just got down to survival for many CAREGivers and our staff, and we had to terminate service for most of our clients from Friday (Aug. 25) to the next Friday (Sept. 1). Even after that, it was tough.
"Yolanda had the ability to go with her clients and help 24/7 for a number of days, and she did so selflessly and wonderfully. She did a stellar job of getting her clients ready to go amid a scary situation. On the same day (Aug. 24), she also had to hurry to prepare her own family. Yolanda could have chosen to go with her family, but she did not because her husband and her children were able to safely leave and stay together in San Antonio. We thank her family for their sacrifice. We owe Yolanda, other CAREGivers and our staff a debt of gratitude, and they have our admiration for performance under such dire circumstances."
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