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July 16, 2020

Compassion, Assistance Are Hallmarks of Nina's Life

Nina Thornton Houston 232 CG Quarter Two 2020 Picture
Nina has been helping people since she was a sharp, compassionate 11-year-old schoolgirl in La Porte, Texas. On her winding journey to Home Instead Senior Care®, she has served as a family caregiver, worked as a nursing-home CNA and ran a group home for the elderly and disabled with her mother. It was no surprise when Nina was honored as a CAREGiver of the Quarter for the award-winning Home Instead franchise owned by Cara Delgado, which serves north Houston.

"I started helping people in need before I was a teenager. My brother and I tried to be a big help to neighbors, especially the elderly. I'd take their trash out, mow lawns and run errands. We followed the example of our mother, who was a role model. When we were young, she handed out commodities, especially to the elderly," Nina said.

At age 13, Nina went to live with her 97-year-old grandmother for about a year before she passed away in 1983. A failing memory was her grandmother's biggest challenge. "I loved her so much and wanted to be around her. I'd get up in the mornings and make sure everything was good for her before I'd catch the bus to go to school," Nina recalled. "She got around pretty well. On the day she died, she was out in her garden picking vegetables. They came to school to tell me she'd passed away. Her heart gave out, and my heart broke."

After working in nursing homes in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Nina joined her mother, also a CNA, to run a group home for two years. "Most were dementia residents, and one was bedridden with a feeding tube. Their children wanted more care for their senior loved ones than they could receive at a nursing home. We usually had six residents," Nina said.

"It was challenging because of labor considerations. Of course, it's 24/7 with lots of work. It was hard to keep reliable help, and we were continually training employees. Mom and I were doing well and serving a great purpose, but there were no vacations and scarcely any time off."

While raising a son and daughter and working, Nina had another important family caregiving assignment – she helped take care of her mother until she died in 2006.

Nina saw a Home Instead television commercial last year and joined Home Instead Senior Care in the fall of 2019.

Nina said she can commiserate with her Home Instead clients because she has reached the status of "empty nester." Her 29-year-old daughter is a nurse practitioner, and her 25-year-old son also works. "Since my kids are gone, I can relate to the loneliness that my clients experience," Nina said. "I get into conversations about missing the daily contact with family members. Their family members are busy with jobs, raising families and just living life. I can see the loneliness in their faces. Once they get to know me, it breaks down walls and helps with their loneliness."

Nina's heartfelt message for her clients is, "I'm here for you, to keep you company and do whatever you'd like me to do to help you. I can't replace family members, but I'll sure try hard to be a great companion. I want you to feel good about me being here."

Nina explained further: "I want to see a smile the next time I walk in the door. As I have ended shifts, I've heard, 'When will you come back?' My clients know that I treat them with love. I know I've made an impression and have had an impact. I don't run their lives. I want them to remain as independent as possible."

The husband of a dementia client told Nina, "How do you do it? How do you break through with my wife?"

Describing dementia care, Nina said: "I feel what they feel because I step into their shoes. You need to meet them where they are in life. Even if they have dementia, they can sense if you are genuine. They know if you are happy and friendly without hearing any words because facial expressions and nonverbal communication speak volumes. I am intuitive and sense their feelings and needs. You learn to look for signals or indicators that they need to use the bathroom, for instance. That having been said, I want to hear their concerns and opinions."

Finally, Nina has empathy and serves as an advocate if needed.

"They lose loved ones, and so have I. In addition to my mother and others, I lost my brother to cancer in 2014. I found I had to serve as my brother's advocate toward the end of his life for several reasons. In the same vein, I want to be an advocate for my clients. I know my brother is smiling on me and is proud of me. I can hear him saying, 'Keep it up with helping others. I am saving a place for you.' "

All Home Instead CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (281) 789-0419 or apply online at https://www.homeinstead.com/232/home-care-jobs. For further information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit our website at https://www.homeinstead.com/232. Our Home Instead Senior Care office, at 13105 Northwest Freeway, Suite 103, Houston, Texas 77040, serves north Houston, including Cypress, Jersey Village, Highlands, Hockley, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Spring, Tomball and Waller.