Meet Our Caregiver Heroes | Part 2
Meet Our Caregiver Heroes
We have never received so many entries for the Caregiver of the Year Award, and while this made the decision making process extremely difficult, we are amazed at how many strong, humble, and kind-hearted people serve as caregivers every single day. Every unique story was touching and inspiring, and we are honored to have been given a glimpse into your lives. We want you all to know that your challenges and sacrifices are appreciated and admired, and the difference you make as a caregiver every day is priceless. Our Carewell team read every single entry that was submitted, and we were blown away by how touching each and every nomination was. We are thrilled to continue highlighting caregivers who have touched their loved ones with their kindness and compassion, and who have inspired us with their stories.
Wilbur was nominated by his daughter, Deborah, who expressed her appreciation for his commitment and love in her nomination entry. Wilbur is a full-time caregiver for his wife, who suffers from late stage Alzheimer’s. Wilbur helps his wife with her daily needs, such as bathing and eating, and he has even learned how to do her hair for her. Not only has Wilbur been a dedicated caregiver for his wife, he has also helped others by discussing his journey with caring for a spouse with late stage Alzheimer’s by giving advice on how to give the best care possible. “He cares for her alone 24/7 and does NOT EVER complain or slack off on what he feels is his “duty”as a husband and best friend. He states “in sickness and health til death do us part” He feels she always took care of him and his family and now he can and will take care of her. He is a very humble man and doesn’t require praise or compliments.”
Wilbur is not only a committed caregiver, but a supportive and loving husband. Wilbur’s heart-warming story is inspirational, and a perfect example of what it means to be a caregiver.
Audrey was nominated by her brother, Cory, who suffered from a spinal cord injury (SCI), requiring him to visit the ICU. She transported Cory to the rehabilitation hospital in Colorado, so he could get the help he needed. Audrey helped him every step of the way by coordinating with insurance and doctors, driving Cory to appointments, and even modifying her home to be more accessible to him. Audrey has been balancing work and caregiving for her brother, which includes helping him physically, as well as supporting and encouraging him emotionally.
“When I sustained an SCI, it wasn't only me that lost my independence, but Audrey did as well. We have both been on a journey learning who we are and our sense of self in this rollercoaster of life." Cory appreciates your love and support so much, Audrey. We are so glad to have read your story, and we commend you for all that you have done for your brother.
Nominated by Jacob, Joanna is a caregiver to her grandmother, who suffers from dementia. She exemplifies resilience and dedication, and respects the personhood of her grandmother. Not only does Joanna provide excellent care for her grandmother, she also volunteers to provide care to other under-served individuals in the community. She is an eager and loving caregiver as well as a lifelong learner.
Here is an excerpt of Joanna's caregiving experience in her own words: "I squeezed my grandmother’s hand in mute reassurance as I struggled to decipher garbled syllables. Over the past eight years as her primary caregiver, I had woken up countless times throughout the night to administer topical creams for arthritic pain, reposition her restless body, or assist with urgent toileting needs. Learning these tasks without training or guidance was overwhelming but expressing my uncertainties and questions about her personal and medical care empowered my grandmother to vocalize her preferences. It also encouraged her to process her fears and grief regarding her loss of independence and privacy, facilitating conversations which later proved vital in ascertaining her viewpoint regarding complex care decisions. However, none of these experiences prepared me for the heartbreaking sense of helplessness that I felt while witnessing her cognitive decline. I scoured the internet for articles and videos about cultivating meaningful interaction with dementia patients but eventually realized that no singular piece of advice could alter my grandmother’s hallucinations or protect her against the agonies of her terrified imagination. Being unable to provide her with curative relief was devastating- but it ultimately led me to explore my own limitations from a place of curiosity rather than frustration. As I shifted from approaching her symptoms as problems with discrete variables and concrete answers, I realized the specificities which differentiated her from lists of statistics in case studies in my biomedical coursework- making it impossible to utilize those targeted solutions- were also exactly what defined her humanity. For the first time, her illness prompted me to wonder at the infinite diversity brimming within the fabric of human nature- from the unique articulations of our thoughts to the ridges of our fingertips. "”
For years, Martha’s sister, Louise, has had degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and declining mental health issues. Last year, Louise suffered from several falls, breaking her arm and causing her to need extensive back surgery. Martha has been helping her sister with the physical and mental health challenges that Louise has been facing due to her surgery and physical limitations, as well as in the wake of her daughter’s tragic suicide. “She's my rock and hero. Martha is always there for me, regardless of what time of day and night. She paces herself to have the energy and strength to care for me and keep the household in good shape. She's been kind and generous, no matter what was going on with her and myself.” Your sister greatly appreciates all that you do, Martha, and we are inspired and touched by your story.
Lori Ann M.
After taking in her brother-in-law, Lori Ann has been caring for Justin like he’s her own child. Facing physical and mental impairment as well as a chromosome disorder, seizures, a brain tumor, and a very rare heart condition called Wolfe Parkinson White, Justin is in need of constant care. Lori Ann has taken it upon herself to work with him from morning to night.
“The doctors said that they would never heal and I got them healed in 8 months it was a lot of work! He came home with a colostomy bag, tracheotomy feeding tube and 2 stage 4 bedsores. But he's all healed up and happy as can be for someone bedridden! My husband as well is doing great!” We commend you for your generosity of time and love for Justin, and we are honored that you shared your story with us.
Lorraine was nominated by her husband of 27 years, Edgar Cortes Sr. A retired SGC who just finished her BS and AD degrees, Lorraine has cared for Edgar since 2005, when Edgar underwent a failed back surgery that led to TBI, PTSD, MCI, and Retinitis Pigmentosa in both eyes. After 22 years in the army, Lorrain attended LPN school in order to better learn how to care for Edgar. As Edgar states, “[Lorraine] teaches me everyday what unconditional love means.] Lorraine’s caregiving responsibilities center around finances, housework, repairs, transportation, nutrition, and more. Lorraine also helps Edgar stay involved in the world he knows, and by helping him follow his dreams to start a non profit called Lucidity, Inc. Edgar states “She is always trying to put a smile on my face knowing that she does little for herself. She has taken care of everything (no exaggeration), yard work, bills, savings, chores, housework, repairs, driving, groceries, cleaning, fixing, I mean there is no end to the list and yet for every surgery she is there, every doctor's appointment she is there.”
Michelle M. was nominated by her brother, Theron. Theron states “There are not enough words to describe how much my sister Michelle has given up for me. To allow me to function in the world and not have to live in a facility. I was only only 33 when the brain aneurysm happed to me and the doctors said I may have to live in a home.” Although Theron was living in Atlanta at the time, Michelle was able to establish residence in New York with Theron, in order to be closer to family. Michelle and her mother worked diligently to make sure there family was together, before their mothers unfortunate passing. Michelle stood by Theron’s side through rehabilitation, and they eventually moved in together in the apartment they were raised in in the Bronx. Theron states “I could go on about Michelle Marbury. The bottomline is, she is my rock. Literally my eyes, ears, nose and mouth…She encourages me when I am down. Keeps my appointments, researches ways and means for me. To the point, my life is so much fuller even in my condition, because of my Sister, Michelle. I hope you will award her this well deserved token for her unwavering service.
Patti is the caregiver to her brother, Brian. Brian, age 44, has down syndrome and has been living with Patti and her family since 2014. She described her caregiving responsibilities as around the clock - as he has a multitude of health issues prevalent in the heart and lung. She states “I have dedicated my life to his care, to his quality of life, to his happiness and most important - for him to know that he is loved fiercely - unconditional, undying, to fight for him to the last breath. I have given up so much by becoming his guardian/caretaker, but what I have gotten back with this experience is tenfold. I am a better person for it; my husband and children are better people for it.” Patti and her brother have always had a special bond, which became even tighter after their mother became ill in 2001 and unfortunately passed away in 2014 after losing their father suddenly. Yet Patti’s goal was always to give Brian a seemingly normal and consistent life amongst the loss.
Ann has been her husband’s caregiver since 2008. She says, “Because of the odd nature of Huntington’s Disease behavioral and physical movements, it can be challenging to take my husband out in public. Yet I know he longs to have a change of scenery just like the rest of us.” Ann does an exemplary job of making sure her husband feels involved in daily activities, despite the hurdles of mobility. She says, “I have attempted to keep some sort of ‘family life normalcy’ for our two daughters.” Ann has a nursing background that she says has given her the skills necessary to care for her husband's needs, which include: bathing, shaving, dressing, eating, and walking. Ann says, “Although it can be challenging every day to keep up with all of his physical needs, I hope I am helping to ease his burden and that of his family's (other siblings who also have Huntington's Disease) as we are all together on this journey…”
Aimee G. is the caregiver to her daughter, Emily and was nominated by her husband Geoffrey. Geoffrey states: “Aimee should be recognized as the caregiver of the year because Emily’s care is the priority in our household and Aimee always takes the lead role in what is very challenging for bathing, feeding, tracking appointments and missing work to take her to those appointments.” Emily has a complicated medical history, including a seizure disorder and limited cognitive function. As Geoffrey describes, Aimee takes the lead when it comes to making sure Emily has everything she needs, all the while being a teacher to 24 students and parenting 3 other children.
“We are a very happy family, but mainly because of the teacher, mother, and nurse that we have leading us!” - Geoffrey G.
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