Home is where the heart is.
For a group of elderly men and women evacuated from Conroe on Monday after Hurricane Harvey, that home — at least temporarily — is Heartis Senior Living and Memory Care in Cleburne.
Flooding has been the main issue in Conroe since Friday, and food and medication for residents were running low as supply trucks could not reach the home.
With more rain on the way, city officials announced plans to release water from the Lake Conroe Dam and put a mandatory evacuation in place for residents who lived nearby.
Twenty-seven memory care residents from Conroe loaded onto a charter bus at about midnight to make the three-hour trip to Cleburne.
Memory care is a form of long-term skilled nursing that specifically caters to patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other types of memory problems.
“Anytime you take them out of their comfort zone — whether that is to go to the hospital or go home with family — they get really confused,” said Kim Massie, business office manager for Heartis Conroe. “But, they have done amazing. The families have been staying in touch with me through text messages. The whole bus ride no one complained.”
Massie has been in constant contact with family members since the group departed Monday night.
“I have been letting them know all throughout the trip how they are doing,” she said.
One family member decided to drive from Little Elm to meet his mother-in-law when she arrived.
“Being in a strange place, we wanted to make sure she had a recognizable face here because sometimes she can get frazzled,” James Clay said. “She’s pretty stubborn and feisty — she has already tried to con me into taking her home.”
His 94-year-old mother-in-law, Mary Matus, said the move really hasn’t been too bad.
“I knew there was a hurricane, but I wasn’t worried,” she said. “I’ve got my son-in-law with me, so it has been OK.”
One couple were not thrilled about evacuating in the middle of the night, but at least get to keep one another company.
Jack Leeka, and his wife, Elizabeth, are both 80 years old and have been married 57 years.
“I was worried [about Hurricane Harvey],” Jack Leeka said. “I thought they were going to shut down our operations over there.”
He said the bus ride was stressful for them.
“We hadn’t eaten for a good while and most of the people are on medication,” he said. “We had been off our medication for most of the whole day.”
By the time the bus got to Cleburne, Jack Leeka said he was “too exhausted to be relieved.”
“I didn’t sleep good,” he said. “My feet are sticking out of my bed.”
The Salvation Army of Cleburne provided cots for them to sleep on, but are difficult for most to use because they are 6 inches from the ground.
“That’s one thing the residents — the ones that could verbalize — have not liked is that the cots are very uncomfortable,” Massie said. “If we could get some mattresses — even if they are close to the floor because we can help them get down there — at least they would be comfortable.”
Heartis Cleburne team member Pamela Tesitor said there are items the Conroe residents desperately need.
“They were able to grab what they could grab and get here,” she said. “They need mattresses, blankets, wipes, gloves and comfort items.”
The Conroe residents will be in Cleburne at least until Monday, but with flooding expected to continue into next week they may stick around longer.
Donations can be dropped off at 902 Walter P. Holliday Blvd.