DHR’s ‘Circle of Care’ conference arms Valley caregivers with resources

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One moment changed Andrea Rodriguez’s life forever.

On Dec. 16, 2018, Andrea, then 23 years old, was working as an emergency medical technician transporting a patient to a local hospital when a driver traveling in the opposite direction crashed into her ambulance. The crash killed both Andrea’s partner and patient and left her severely injured.

Andrea suffered various injuries including a brain injury, neck and facial fractures, a broken nose, a dislocated right hip and a knee injury.

She was taken to the DHR Health emergency room in Edinburg where her recovery process would begin. She spent time in Neuro-ICU before eventually being transferred to the rehabilitation center and finally to the outpatient center.

According to her father, Rudy Rodriguez, Andrea also suffered a stroke while she recovered from her injuries.

“It was just a long painful process for her, I mean physically painful, mentally painful,” Rudy said, adding that his daughter had to relearn how to use her arms and hands again as well as walking.

Since then her parents have acted as her caregivers.

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, DHR Health will be hosting its 10th annual Circle of Care Conference where caregivers like Rudy are provided with resources, support and empowerment to help people like Andrew, who’s now 28.

This year’s conference will feature a comprehensive program, interactive workshops, educational seminars and other resources.

The event will be held from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, located at 118 Paseo Del Prado in Edinburg.

DHR Health in Edinburg is seen June 24, 2020. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Rudy, 57, and his family attended last year’s conference, an event he believes shed a new perspective on understanding the tasks of a caregiver.

Some of his biggest takeaways from the conference were when presenters spoke about the importance of knowing how to properly assist a person out of bed or after they’ve fallen.

“I was sitting there listening to them and it dawned on me that there are some things that — due to time and different regiments and things like that — you forget,” Rudy explained.

Other speakers talked about the mental health aspect of caregiving, describing that some people struggling with disabilities can also struggle with the loss of independence.

As he listened to the speaker, Rudy thought of his daughter and the struggles she must’ve faced going from an independent and dedicated person to needing help even with the simplest tasks.

“She had been in a job that was physically demanding where she was constantly active and .. being a student at the university carrying a full-time load,” Rudy said. “So you’re talking about someone that was very motivated, very independent and now all of sudden you put this big brake on her.”

The presentation allowed him to better understand the psychological challenges that accompanied his daughter’s injuries.

“You’re talking about being reoriented with how to move patients, their different physical needs and now some of the mental health aspects of it,” Rudy said.

During the conference attendees also learned about assisted devices such as a one-handed can opener and what Rudy refers to as a vertical knife.

For Rudy, these devices were a way for people struggling with mobility issues to regain some independence.

To see her sit there at the dinner table with us and use these tools and regain some of her independence it was just … oh my goodness, I can’t even describe the feeling,” Rudy said. “Through the conference, we’re finding other ways that she can conquer these little challenges.”

Now nearly five years after the accident, Andrea is walking again and continuing to adapt to the changes in her life.

“We still work on it daily. It does become a little bit frustrating, where you know she was used to doing things 110% on her own and now there are things that she has to slow down and ask for assistance,” Rudy said. “Her morale is good. Her spirituality is good.”

Rudy also felt as though the conferences helped build camaraderie and support.

That can be beneficial for attendees who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to all that these conferences offer.

“This is like a large-scale support group where you’ve got medical professionals, you’ve got mental health professionals, you’ve got the caregivers there, you’ve got the patients there,” Rudy said, adding that it allows them to learn from each other’s experiences.

The conference is free and open to all caregivers with breakfast and lunch provided during the event. Seating is limited, however.

DHR is asking all interested participants to register by calling (956) 362-3550.