Reflections on 20 Years as a Home Care Provider
I’m David Gest, owner of Home Instead in Bryan/College Station. This is a retrospective of how in-home care has changed lives in the Brazos Valley. In my almost 30 years of being a proud resident of Aggieland, I’ve discovered that the people we serve are the kind of people you’d want to know.
In fact, you probably do know many of them.
In December of 2001, I made the decision to introduce in-home care to the Brazos Valley. I attended training in Omaha before returning to Bryan/College Station to get busy “taking care of people”. I had no idea at that time how rewarding or gratifying that decision would be. Looking back, this was the defining moment of my business career.
After 20 years spent in advertising, I admittedly knew very little about caring for seniors. My background was strictly in business, and I saw Home Instead as a way to remain in the business world. I quickly hired and trained ten Home Instead CAREGivers, but we had no clients. All ten CAREGivers I hired quit for lack of work while I was running around trying to educate the healthcare community about this new service concept.
I distinctly remember the call I received a couple of months after opening the doors asking if we could help take care of an elderly woman who had fallen and broken her arm. I’m ashamed to admit the joy I felt that we were going to finally get the chance to do what we’d been preparing ourselves to do! We began a minimal schedule of in-home care for our new client, but we were finally providing actual CARE. The journey had begun.
A couple of weeks later we signed our first client who required 24/7 in-home care and Home Instead of Bryan/College Station was off and running! Since then, we have had the privilege of serving hundreds and hundreds of the finest people in the world – the seniors of the Brazos Valley. As we approach the milestone of 20 years of providing loving care to our elderly friends and neighbors, our perspective on what we do has changed immensely.
For a long time, we thought that we did what our marketing brochures listed. We provided companionship, light housekeeping, meal preparation, medication reminders, and incidental transportation. We washed laundry, put fresh linens on beds, cleaned bathrooms and kitchens, and much more.
So much more…
It took a few years before I came to the realization that what we were really doing was allowing people to truly live on their own terms. We helped them live where they wanted to live and how they wanted to live. We provided comfort, security, friendship, love, and more forms of assistance than we’d imagined. We learned about Alzheimer's and other dementias, and we learned how to train our CAREGivers to know more about these debilitating diseases. We learned about nutrition, hygiene, body mechanics, isolation, depression, and safety in the home.
And I began to learn more about myself.
I learned that looking back was just as important as looking forward. I learned that losses made wins more enjoyable. I learned that wisdom often comes from 90+-year old men who don’t get out of their pajamas all day. I learned that God has a plan for all of us and that it’s over when God says it’s over. I learned that I was a terrible CAREGiver, but that I know how to hire people who were great CAREGivers. I learned that one unalienable right that’s often overlooked, is the right to live out our lives in a respectable and individualized way of our own choosing.
It became clear to me that my calling to open Home Instead in Bryan/College Station was going to facilitate many happy moments for many people. We give daughters the chance to be just that – daughters – and not caregivers. We gave families the chance to hold hands with their loved ones when visiting without concerns over who was going to handle the kitchen duties. We were often the ones at the bedside of a senior as they breathed their last breath, content in the knowledge that we were placed there by a higher power.
As is often the case, there have been many long days and many short years. We’ve laughed and we’ve cried, and we’ve experienced every emotion in between. In-home care is the answer to the question “what should we do with aging citizens of the world?” We’re living longer on resources meant to last for a shorter time. We can’t build facilities fast enough to house our aging population – making it all the more compelling that we find ways to care for people in the environment they call home.
When I bought Home Instead to Bryan/College Station, I was a middle-aged man experiencing a career change. Twenty years later, we provide care for people who are sometimes younger than me. This experience has been an immense blessing to our family and, hopefully, to yours. If we haven’t worked together, I hope we will soon; after all, To Us, it’s Personal.
David Gest has been a resident of the Brazos Valley since moving from his native Louisiana in 1992. After a long career in advertising, he purchased the Home Instead franchise for Bryan/College Station in 2001. When not managing his business, David enjoys playing golf and spending time with his family including his five grandchildren. A huge fan of the Saints, the Aggies, and the Astros, David enjoys sports of all kinds. He is a devoted member of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in College Station.