Nursing home caregivers become Harvey heroes

Stories of heroic efforts by long term care staff in the days following Hurricane Harvey’s landfall were abundant. Following are highlights of two stories where nursing home staff put their residents’ needs above their own.

Harvey forced thousands of residents to be evacuated from nursing facilities and assisted living facilities along the Gulf Coast to inland nursing facilities or other locations able to accept them. Many more nursing facilities were forced to implement emergency preparedness plans and shelter in place. With the support of families and local communities, long term care providers took care of their residents as well as residents from other facilities in the affected region against incredible odds.

“It was humbling to hear the reports of staff working around-the-clock to care for the residents, putting these men and women before their own needs, despite their own losses,” said Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association. “Times like these really do reveal the true character of people, and I am proud to be a part of the long term care industry and to see their incredible efforts.”

At the Heights of North Houston Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center, administrator Nancy Wood held things together, said Elaine Nutefall, a nurse at the facility.

“We all met up at the facility beginning very early Saturday before the storm with our belongings to last up to two weeks, if need be!” Nutefall said. “We slept in our offices and in empty rooms. Nancy had her air mattress in front of her desk in her office. Nancy was awake and ready to ‘rock and roll’ every morning at 5 a.m. She was also the very last person to go to bed, often after midnight. She was calm, smiling and willing to do anything that needed to be done! She even attempted to pick up stranded staff on the worst rainy days. She worked in the kitchen making toast for the residents’ breakfast.”

At Laurel Court in Alvin, Business Development Director Sondra Hare put in long hours helping to take care of evacuees from other nursing homes.

“They were scared,” Hare said. “Most of the ladies have dementia, so they were even more confused. I was taking some of them off the bus, and the look in their terrified eyes cut me to the core. We got them all showered and in beds in less than an hour. That night they were safe, fed, warm and happy. Their wonderful staff came with them, and they had lost their cars parked at work. They became part of our family as well. The national news wanted the story. They didn’t name us — we were called ‘a nursing home in Alvin.’ It was hard and yet so fulfilling, and I am so proud to be a part of the family at Laurel Court.