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February 08, 2021

Client’s Husband: ‘God Sent Us Kat’

Kat Robbins New Braunfels 366 Preferred Pix2

“God sent Kat to us,” said a spouse whose wife is one of Kat Robbins’ Home Instead® clients. The spouse of another client said, “Having Kat is like having a daughter in the house. Kat has made all the difference in the world.” Home Instead Training and Engagement Supervisor Nancy Weigandt said: “Kat is truly an amazing person and CAREGiver. She is the epitome of a great CAREGiver. Fittingly, she is our first CAREGiver of the Quarter in 2021.”

Kat summed up her Home Instead CAREGiver job by saying, “God called me to do this. Caregiving is natural for me. I have a heart for service. I’ve loved helping the elderly and children.” Referencing the young and old, Kat explained: “From 2001 to 2007, I worked in a school district’s special education department. I joined Home Instead in July 2020. A good friend saw the Home Instead building sign and told me, ‘You’d be awesome at that job.’ ”

Kat is a natural as a CAREGiver for many reasons. One of her role models was her grandmother, who owned a nursing home in the 1960s and 1970s in Kerrville, Texas. Kat’s grandmother was so attached to her residents and so particular about their care that she alone prepared their meals. The nursing home was Kat’s first exposure to dementia behaviors.

“I was 7 years old when I remember listening to the residents talk to my grandmother. I was puzzled because often they asked repetitive questions. Dad took me to the nursing home after school to visit three times a week,” said Kat, whose grandmother sold the nursing home and later passed away when Kat was a college senior. “The dementia made a lasting impression. I’ve been reading a lot about it. I try hard to understand what I am possibly missing with a client. What can I do that helps them? The job affects more than the clients. There is an impact on their spouses.”

Kat took on the role of family caregiver 28 years ago to assist her father when her mother was terminally ill. Speaking with admiration, Kat said, “My dad did it all. I did as much as I could. Dad said there were things he ‘couldn’t do right,’ and turned to me for help. The crazy thing is that Dad died in March 1994, four months before Mom died. They were in their late 60s. Dad was very tired, very overwhelmed.”

There is a parallel for Kat, who helps two husbands by helping their wives. “These men are heroic, and I am proud to help them on behalf of Home Instead. Ninety-five percent of my clients have dementia. While it is a horrible, debilitating disease that afflicts my clients, I also see the toll that dementia takes on the spouses. I tell the spouses, ‘Go out, take a walk, run an errand and just take some time for yourself,’ ” Kat said.

Kat received her first regular client in August and began assisting a client who has been married for more than 50 years. “I love her so much. She led an amazing life as a realtor and accountant before Alzheimer’s. She is an elegant, beautiful lady who had decorated their home so wonderfully. She knows who I am when I arrive and hugs me. When she gets tired in the evenings, she might occasionally ask her husband who I am,” said Kat, who assists the client on most weekdays.

“The husband takes care of her most mornings and at night after the evening-shift CAREGiver leaves at 10 p.m. He averages about three to four hours of sleep. I am in awe of him and the other husband whose wife has dementia. They take such good care of their wives. I help the second dementia client only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Discussing her five-days-a-week client’s activities, Kat said: “She likes her kitchen and garden. Wednesdays involve a different routine for the client because those days consist of 11-hour shifts instead of the four other four- or five-hour shifts I have. As a result, the client and I together plan a meal. As part of the break in her routine, she helps me prepare the meal. For example, she might help by cutting up the vegetables. Wednesday also is the day when she loves to ride with me and holds my hand when we shop. She doesn’t know why we run errands, but she helps me pick out things like potatoes and lettuce. Nearly every day, we walk a lot in her neighborhood, maybe two miles each day. As her sundowning occurs more, I take her out two to three times a day. When she gets to an anxious level, walks can help. Her mobility is amazing.”

Kat added: “She doesn’t want me to leave, nor does she want her husband to leave. She is starting to use her own words and language. When I speak, I carefully tell her what she is going to do. I am very careful with her so I do not frustrate her. Detailed, thoughtful care is key. I know how I’d want someone to treat my loved one if my role was reversed.

Kat helps her other dementia client twice a week. “She is different from my five-days-a-week client. She is far more challenging because she has lost her vocabulary and has problems understanding. We can’t sit down often because of hyperactivity. One day, we walked around the bedroom as I told her about my morning. Her anxiety left. I make it a big point with any dementia client not to force them to do anything because it triggers anxiety. My goal is simply to do the best I can,” Kat explained.

Music and the client’s longtime spiritual faith are positive care factors. “She was a Christian church educator who had played the piano before her dementia worsened and she quit. One day, I put her hands on the piano keys. I have pulled tunes off my phone. I’d hum a melody while combing her hair. We then would sing. She loves hymns, including ‘Lord of the Dance’ and ‘How Great Thou Art.’ She also loves being read to. I’ve read “Friends Forever” to her, and she loves to read a few words. Prayers calm her, and a release comes over her.”

The clients’ husbands have nothing but praise for Kat’s care.

Said the husband whose wife spends five days a week with Kat: “She is very protective and dependable, and Kat treats my wife with the deepest respect. Kat understands how to communicate with her, and Kat knows how to keep her on schedule so she is not so anxious. Kat is very good about recognizing when my wife has begun an anxiety attack. Any time my wife moves, Kat is right there with her.”

The client’s husband added: “When the dementia started, I often was working out of state. My wife lost an alarming amount of weight because she was forgetting to eat. Kat knows how to prepare a meal my wife likes and will help her gain weight. She’s gone from 92 pounds to 104 pounds since Kat arrived. Furthermore, our doctor said the best thing for the dementia brain is blood circulation, so walking is good. Kat walks with her a lot, and Kat and my wife do well at the store. They buy women’s clothing and things that are more of a challenge for me. Kat makes sure we have clean linens, and our bathroom sparkles. Kat helps with her personal care.”

The husband noted: “Home Instead is tuned into Alzheimer’s, and they have CAREGivers who know what to do. The Home Instead schedulers put the right people in the right places, which is important. A CAREGiver like Kat helps us know what to do.”

The husband of Kat’s other dementia client pointed out: “Kat helps us twice a week, and she gives me a break to go shopping or go to the park. It takes a very special person to do the things Kat does. She has really helped us a whole lot, and I am thrilled she came into our lives. Kat has my wife’s best interests in mind and is very nice to her. Kat is just a nice, nice lady. When she comes to the house, my wife gives her a big hug and smile. In addition to helping my wife, Kat gives me someone with whom to chat and provides advice. Kat can tell me what’s going on.”

Kat has a third regular client, a 95-year-old woman who does not have dementia. But the client fell and could not walk before Kat arrived to help her. “Now she is up and moving around. She is an amazing story because she had polio as a young girl and came from the Midwest to Texas because the weather was more favorable for her than the snow. She loves music, and she sang with the Cliff Barrows choir in the globe-trotting Billy Graham crusades. Her late husband sang, too. She is sharp as a tack and is a proper lady who loves her makeup, styled hair and nice clothes. Her faith has never wavered – we pray before lunch and she loves Christian TV.”

Kat’s awesome care has drawn praise from the Home Instead office. General Manager Allison Johnston said: “Kat is always very responsible and professional. I can trust her going anywhere.” Hiring Coordinator Lisa Odom said: “Every time I’ve spoken with Kat, she is always so positive and friendly. I can understand why her clients love her so much!” 

Scheduling Coordinator Victoria Raxter said: “I truly appreciate how Kat communicates because she is amazingly responsive. If I need to adjust a shift time or ask if she can work a shift, she will usually reply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ within 10 minutes. For example, there were a lot of scheduling changes during Christmas week. Her quick responses really helped get the last-minute shifts scheduled quickly.”

Training and Engagement Supervisor Nancy Weigandt said: “Kat always looks professional, calls to report all client concerns and accurately documents the cases. Kat also quickly earns the trust of the clients and their families. She is an excellent problem-solver who assesses each situation and handles it calmly and professionally. Kat is in tune with her clients’ needs and customizes the care for each person.”

As for her future with co-owners Kris and Jean-Marc’s award-winning Home Instead franchise, Kat said: “I see myself doing this until I can’t. It is frustrating that I can’t fix everything for my clients. Sometimes, all I can do is encourage and give them hope.”

All Home Instead CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured. For inquiries about employment, please call (830) 624-8380 or apply online. For further information about Home Instead, visit our website.