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January 04, 2021

CAREGiver of Year Nina: Clients Are My Family

Nina Thornton Houston 232 CG Quarter Two 2020 Picture

CAREGiver of the Year Nina loves being with her family, and she emphasizes her clients are her family. As much as Nina helps each client through the day, they also have been a continual source of strength and comfort in her life "just by being there" during her challenging year.
"I have gone through a lot this year. Receiving the CAREGiver of the Year award was totally unexpected. As I pause and reflect on the year, I'd have to say the honor brought a lot of meaning to my life and a value that is more important than anyone could know. I am happy when I am with my clients, and I am not happy when I am not with them. They are my world, my family. They are what uplifts me," Nina said.

She also was selected as a CAREGiver of the Quarter in July by owner Cara Delgado's Home Instead® franchise that serves north and northwest Houston. The award-winning franchise's service area includes Cypress, Jersey Village, Highlands, Hockley, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Spring, Tomball and Waller. Office Manager Mitchell McGee announced Nina's CAREGiver of the Year honor.

Explaining how she attempts to help her clients flourish with her compassion and encouragement, Nina said, "Figuratively speaking, I am just trying 'to provide a lot of water to make things grow in the garden.' They are No. 1 in my life. My priority is to make my clients happy. By doing so, that makes me sweeter. My work helps keep me focused. It just brings me a lot of joy. If I have a day off, I don't know what to do with myself. I ask the scheduler, 'Julie, what do you have for me?' "  

Nina's spiritual faith is an important aspect of her life. Nina believes God has blessed her with her clients. The totality of her situation, including her belief in God, has had a healing effect physically and emotionally. "When I first started as a CAREGiver, I prayed because I had come through a shoulder surgery. I had some doubts. I asked God, 'How will this work out?' I've continued to pray since I started with Home Instead. I hope God continues to come through for me, but whatever His will is, that's what I will accept. I just don't want to stop what I am doing, and that is what I pray," she said.

Nina formerly volunteered at a food bank and soup kitchen before COVID-19, but volunteerism across nearly every spectrum has been curtailed. "You are very limited on how much you can volunteer and where you can do it," she said.

Nina has been helping people since she was an 11-year-old schoolgirl in La Porte, Texas. On her winding journey to Home Instead®, she has served as a family caregiver, worked as a nursing-home CNA and manager of a group home for the elderly and disabled with her mother.

"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 manage 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.

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 serves as an advocate if needed. "Clients 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 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-jobsFor further information about Home Instead, visit our website at https://www.homeinstead.com/232Our Home Instead 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.