Mario Luis Guerra, Sr.
Mario Luis Guerra Jr.
Do you remember what it was that made you take that right path rather than the left path in your life, the one that changed your course?
For Mario L. Guerra, Jr., co-owner of Starr Home Health Agency, that time would have been the early 90s while he was a business major in college.
“My mom, a registered nurse, was working for a home health care agency when the industry was barely getting started,” Guerra said. “There were only two or three large agencies in the area at the time. We got together and asked ourselves the question: Why don’t we take a crack at this?”
After graduation he returned to the Valley, and by July of 1993 the business was up and running. Now over 27 years old, it has always been a family-owned business. Guerra even met his wife, a registered nurse, on the job. His mother, the original registered nurse for the agency, had retired, and his father, now part-time, were both instrumental in getting the company started.
In the home health care business, there are two types of care-acute health care and long-term support services.
“Acute care is when the patient comes out of the hospital needing wound care or more,” Guerra explained. “We used to do that, but then decided to concentrate on long-term home care, more of what is called provider or attendant services.”
Licensed by Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Starr Home Health Agency’s main goal is to keep its members at home, sending an attendant/provider to assist with such tasks as bathing, toileting, preparing meals, home cleaning, and dressing and grooming, all according to the level of each member’s needs. This assistance will keep the member at home rather than having to go into a long-term care facility or nursing home.
“Ninety-nine, if not 100 percent, of people would rather be at home than in a care facility,” Guerra said.
Since the tasks the attendants perform are more activities of daily living (ADL), Guerra sometimes worries they don’t get the appreciation they should. The attendants are trained in a variety of tasks including the right foods to cook for diabetic meal planning, how to properly lift somebody with a gait belt and how to shift weight to transfer a patient from a bed to a wheelchair or vice versa.
“We have several hundred part-time attendants in the field and around 40 full time employees in the office. Many of them have been with us over the two decades we’ve been in business,” Guerra said. “We always have the highest concern for our members, especially during this time of the pandemic.”
In their line of work, a bond grows between the attendants and clients.
“They are there every day,” he said. They see the member. They become like family. They know how their patient is doing if something is wrong. They are trained to call us so we can get ahead of the problem, setting up doctor’s appointments if necessary.”
Guerra described the attendants’ days, how they may stay longer than scheduled to keep their client’s company or to help them in other ways. He admitted there are times the first person sent doesn’t fit but they always find the right person for the job, one who the client will feel comfortable with and trust.
Knowing they are doing a good job shows when members send in Thank Yous for the great work they have done, usually from family members, grateful for the tremendous care given their loved one.
“There are two reasons why I love this job,” Guerra’s face lights up. “One is the tight- knit family of employees. My father has sat across from me for the last 20 years. We, as a company, all love watching each other’s families and children grow.
“The second part, and the more vital one, is we are helping our community stay at home. I like to say we are servicing our tios and tias, our abuelitos and abuelitas. That’s who we are helping stay at home because they’re happier.”
Considering how the future of healthcare is changing, this is even more vital.
“Everything is going tele-medicine, especially now that the medical community has had a taste where their patients visit them on zoom or cellphone.”
He admits it will probably take a little longer in the Valley as the elderly may have issues with accessibility to Wi-Fi, but it’s coming and home health care agencies may be an important part of the mixture with their integral involvement with the patients.
Guerra is enthusiastic as he reiterates his concern for his employees and the whole industry.
“I want to bring to the attention the work of our attendants. They’re putting themselves at risk on a daily basis with their clients they’ve fallen in love with and treat as their own family. Our attendants have been integral in how our elderly have been taken care of this past year.
“We’re not the only agency in the Valley that does this work. There are numerous agencies and all the attendants deserve the same respect as the front-line workers. I can’t emphasize that enough and we positively appreciate them.”