When Right at Home caregiver Lori Anguiano got the call about John, who suffered from late-stage dementia and needed an experienced caregiver, she knew that she was the woman for the job. Although John was, at times, prone to aggressive behavior, with 28 years of caregiving experience, Lori knew not to take any of it personally.
“I knew it was going to be challenging,” says Lori. “But I just had to treat every day as a brand new day and keep building trust between us.”
As Lori spent more time with John, she realized that his wife, Marie, would also need caregiving services. Marie had suffered a series of strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIA), which left her unable to fully recover her independence. Marie needed 24-hour care, and Lori became the care team leader, training the other caregivers on how to provide the best care for Marie.
“Our level of caregiving has changed over the years,” says Lori. “We now have to serve as the bridge between medical care and family dynamics, sometimes coordinating physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in addition to balancing the needs of our clients.”
Lori created a strategic routine to provide care for the couple, which the World War II veteran and his wife responded to really well. “Learning their shared history helps you better understand their current behavior,” Lori notes.
John passed away in December 2016, but Lori has continued to provide care to Marie.
Protecting Seniors Against the Storm
In August 2017, the people of Kingwood, Texas, and the rest of the greater Houston area were bracing for a storm. While no one was able to predict the devastation that ultimately befell the community, people tried to prepare as best they could while going about their daily lives. But even a hurricane could not prevent Lori from caring for her client.
“The crazy rains before the hurricane flooded some of the streets and made it difficult for me to get to work that day,” Lori recalls. “My boss called and told me to turn around, to stay out of harm’s way, but I was determined to make it to Marie to help her and her daughter, who had flown in from Idaho to be with her mom.”
When Lori finally made it to the care facility where Marie resides, the facility had already started evacuating some of the residents. Marie was among the last to be evacuated because she was on the third floor and not directly in harm’s way of the flooding. Lori and Marie’s daughter not only helped evacuate Marie safely, but also helped other residents. Although Lori, Marie and her daughter did not know where exactly they would be evacuated, when the boats pulled up to the front of the care community, no one hesitated to get in.
“I was told that I could only bring Marie’s medication, but I packed up as many supplies as I could anyway,” says Lori. “I didn’t want to be difficult, but I needed to make sure that Marie would be as comfortable as possible no matter where we ended up.”
Caring for the Elderly During Natural Disasters
Lori, Marie and her daughter were evacuated to St. Martha’s Catholic School, which was located on higher ground and immune to the flooding. Everyone arrived soaking wet, only to find well-organized stations filled with blankets, shoes, clothes, coffee, hot chocolate, snacks and catered food that had been donated by local restaurants.
Once they dried off and put some food in their bellies, Lori and Marie’s daughter tried to figure out what their next move would be. They were finally able to get in touch with family friends who picked them up later that night. Due to the extreme flooding, Lori, Marie and her daughter stayed at the friends’ house for about four days, then another independent living facility for over four months before they were able to return home safely.
“Honestly, my faith got me through it — it’s the foundation of my life,” says Lori. “I think we also just went into survival mode until we got to higher ground. Once I knew we were safe, I focused more on how everyone else was doing rather than thought about myself.”
Although the flooding ruined Lori’s truck, her apartment miraculously went unharmed. She was able to return to work caring for Marie and training other caregivers within a relatively short amount time, considering the natural disaster they all had endured.
“I tell the caregivers I work with all the time that the work we do is not in vain,” says Lori. “Our work is valuable.”
*The names of the clients and the family have been changed to protect their privacy.
Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. She currently blogs for HuffPost50, Fifty Is The New Fifty and Medical Guardian. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.