In January 2021, temperatures in Siberia rose 100 degrees creating a mass of warm air that pushed the polar vortex off its axis at the north pole. By February, the concentration of cold air that usually swirls around the Arctic made its way to Texas. Cold wind, snow, and ice storms set in, leading to power outages across the state. With temperatures plunging into the single digits, power and water systems across much of Texas collapsed.
At one assisted living facility in Houston, the power was out for over 36 hours. Temperatures inside the building had plummeted into the 40’s, placing the residents at serious risk of hypothermia. The response that came next from a caregiver in the midst of the crisis says so much about the kind of people that caregivers are and just how much they care.
Penny Isaac is a caregiver with Arosa, the premier integrated care management and caregiving services provider to clients in their homes or third-party care facilities in numerous states across the country. When the storm hit in Houston, Penny got a call from Melanie Becker, one of Arosa’s Life Care Managers. Melanie asked her to check on a client at a facility where power had been out for three days, and the temperature inside was dangerously low. Penny drove carefully through the icy streets and safely arrived at the facility. “It was so cold in her apartment,” Penny recounted. “Ms. Jennifer kept pacing back and forth. She’d been on chemotherapy for her cancer and had become so thin…her hands, her whole body was so cold. I put extra layers on her, but she was not getting warm, so I had concerns.” The later it got, the colder it became, and Penny worried her client wouldn’t make it through another freezing night.
“I’ve got to get you someplace warm,” Penny declared, then swiftly packed Ms. Jennifer’s clothes and medications, called her boss and said, “We’re leaving. We’re going to my house, where it’s warm and toasty and the water is running.” With full family and Arosa care management support and approval, Penny took Ms. Jennifer to her own home. “I had been checking constantly, so I knew I had lights, heat, and water. And when we got there, I prepared toast and warm tea, gave Ms. Jennifer a hot bath, and put her to bed. The minute she lay down, she was out like a light. Warm and safe, she slept through the whole night. The next morning, I fixed her some oatmeal and more warm tea—she was eating again. When her sister called and said the lights were back on, we headed back to her place.”
Chinese wisdom says: Many a false step was made by standing still. There were no false steps made here, only because Penny acted so decisively and with such care. Those who know Penny know that this extraordinary level of service is an everyday occurrence.
Ms. Jennifer’s family was most grateful for Penny’s thoughtful action on behalf of their loved one and nominated her for a Ceca Award. Washington DC-based Ceca Foundation partners with Arosa and healthcare communities across the country to honor their caregivers. By recognizing and rewarding the extraordinary acts of care of health caregivers, Ceca is able to improve employee engagement which, in turn, leads to higher quality care for patients, residents, and families.
Penny was born in Texas and raised by her grandparents in Louisiana. “I’ve always been a caregiver, that’s my calling,” explained Penny. “I’m the fourth oldest grandchild, so I was caring for my younger siblings and cousins.” And like many of those in her profession, Penny cared for her grandparents and her mother, and never stopped caring for her three boys and six grandchildren. She loves interacting with seniors, so when her mom passed, she started taking care of the disabled and elderly.
Penny is a very engaged caregiver and a very engaging person. She encourages anyone considering a career in caregiving to go into it with “understanding and patience… you have to genuinely care.” She advises them to “do it in love because nothing is above love.”
Penny genuinely cares about seniors and loves hearing their stories. “Some may have lost short-term memory, but their long-ago stories are still fresh and exciting to hear.” Empathy stands out as Penny’s special quality. She explains, “I just put myself in their situation, not thinking about me, just always thinking about them. You never know when that person is going to leave. You have to make the days they have left enjoyable.”
Penny doesn’t view caregiving as work, “It’s what I enjoy,” she says. “I just go and have fun and try to give my clients the utmost attention, treating them the way I would like to be treated.” That’s who Penny is, and that’s how much she cares.
And it is safe to say that one more life was positively impacted during the historic storms in Texas due to Penny’s extraordinary act of care.