Meet Our Caregiver Heroes | Part 1
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. A few particular entries stood out to us and especially exemplified what it means to be a caregiver.
Francesco was nominated by his wife, Giuditta, who’s mother he has cared for for over 5 years. Their story began in 2015, when Giuditta’s mother began to suffer from effects of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a neurological disease under the Parkinson’s umbrella. Giuditta states that Francesco was involved in her mother’s care ever since she was diagnosed in 2017, including driving her to appointments, getting her showered & dressed, and taking her to the bathroom. He is also responsible for getting her ready for bed, changing her, and helping her with her mobility. When asked if there’s anything else we should know about Francesco, Giuditta states “My husband is a very good cook, just like my mom used to be'' and that he has taken the time and research to find the right products and equipment necessary for Giuditta’s mother’s care. Giuditta states “ I know that if I did not have my husband I could not have kept my Mom at home and she would have been in a worse condition by now and in a nursing home which I know that she would not be at all happy about so I am very grateful for all he has done for my mother and our family.”
Samuel was nominated by his mother, Sandye K.. In Sandye’s nomination, she recounts the story of Samuel's grandmother's hospital stay after suffering from a fall. He told his grandmother that from that day forth, he would never leave her side - he was 19 at the time. Samuel’s responsibilities vary from bathing her, changing her diaper, exercising her, cleaning her room, and feeding her. Above all, he always lets her know that he’s there for her. Sandye states “Most young adults are in college or running around having fun, but he chose to do this. He does get overwhelmed, and sometimes I will tell him to get away for a day or two and I can help. But even if he leaves, he is calling me worried about her.. I could not ask for a better son because he is so selfless and caring.” If there’s one message she hopes comes from Samuel’s story, it’s that he inspires more young people as well.
Helen, or as her family calls her, “the energizer bunny”, celebrated her 83rd birthday in November of 2021, despite all odds against her since she was born. Samantha, Helen’s granddaughter, explained that Helen had rheumatic fever and meningitis as a child which caused her to become deaf. She also has cerebral palsy, hypothyroidism, poly-arthritis and severe scoliosis. In 2016, Helen unfortunately underwent hospitalization for observation of pneumonia, where she eventually suffered from a stroke. Consequently, she was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Her daughter and nominee, Debra, immediately filled the caregiver role that her mother always carried. Debra took on the role by providing compassionate care, and financial relief all the while going through cancer treatment and it’s side effects. Sarah writes “Despite her swollen knuckles and crooked fingers, she still provides daily care to my grandmother…I share this information to showcase that she is clearly the daughter of an energizer bunny; and that a mother/daughters bond is stronger than all odds.”
Natalie G was nominated by her family member, SusaN. Natalie is the mother of 9 children from the ages of 2-14. Susan states, “Although mothering this many children would be overwhelming to most of us, Natalie handles the duty with a cheerful, selfless, and loving disposition. She has a strong determination to balance fun, fitness, education, and new experiences for her family.” She is extremely organized, and is considered a “godsend” by her family. Natalie’s twin children were diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after their birth. Now 13 years old, her twins underwent reconstructive surgery on their legs to improve their ability to walk. Throughout their recovery process, Natalie assisted in their bathing, bathroom needs, eating, drinking, therapy, and amusement. This all happened while making arrangements for her 7 other children at home, making sure they felt tended to as well. Susan states “Her daily routine is full and time consuming. Her day has to be exhausting, but she takes it all in stride. Most importantly, she is always willing to help others even though she needs the help more. Natalie is a deserving nominee to be considered as Caregiver of the Year. She raises nine children with little help and little time for herself. The children are happy and well mannered. They are all a delight to be with.”
“Kathy is a very kind person, who is always there when someone has a problem” says her sister & nominator, Elizabeth Boss. For the past 12 years, Kathy has been the primary caregiver for her sister inlaw who was diagnosed with autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and is legally blind. Kathy also cares for her 27 year old daughter, who has Down Syndrome and is also diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Between her two care recipients, Kathy manages medications, diet, health care, and hygiene. “She can always be found making dinner, brownies, or banana bread for someone who is in need, sick, or who just had a baby. Everyone knows they can count on Kathy in times of need.” - Samantha Boss
Luke, nominated by his wife Leah, is the caregiver to their 7 year old son, Christopher. Luke and Leah are also a licensed foster care family, where they show compassion and patience to those who enter their family, be it temporarily. Their son Christopher was adopted from Bulgaria at 2 ½ years old with complete lower extremity paralysis, hydrocephalus, and developmental delay. Leah states: [Christopher’s] care is complex requiring multiple daily urinary catheterizations, peristeen enemas, transfer assistance, skin integrity monitoring, medication administration, therapy exercises etc.” As the embodiment of selflessness, Luke is in the midst of completing graduate school, while also caring for their son Kasen and newly adopted son Vijay. Kasen required a feeding tube for 2 ½ years of his infancy, where Luke also showed the amazing caregiver that he is. Luke works hard to make sure Christopher feels included, a recent example being their visit to Leavenworth in the winter, where Luke carried their 60+ pound son up the hill for sledding. Leah states “I cannot express how appreciative I am that Luke demonstrates the importance of kindness, humility, and inclusiveness to our children and others. I truly believe that he deserves to be recognized as caregiver of the year.”
Pam nominated herself for this award, for providing care for her son. Throughout her life, she has provided care to her family members, including her husband and now her son. Her husband passed at just 35 years old, after she cared for him as he had Lou Gehrigs disease. Now, her son is suffering from a debilitated leg, and suffered from pneumonia. Without the help of physical and occupational therapy for her son, Pam has taken on his caregiving herself, and has pledged to help him gain strength and recover, despite her own physical limitations. Her positive attitude and dedication to her son is inspiring.
“I’m just a very loving person. I cared for my husband that had Lou Gehrigs and now as my son struggles, I’ll take care of too. He’s all I have. This picture is before he had to go on machines. I miss these smiles.”
When Nereida discovered her mother needed to transition into assisted living due to dementia, she couldn’t bear to place her mother in a nursing home, especially during COVID-19, so she decided to take her in and care for her herself. Nereida sold her sailboat to buy a car so that she could transport her mom to appointments. As a full-time student and part-time employee herself, Nereida’s time was already stretched thin. But she prioritized her mom’s quality of life and well-being above her own, and shared her bedroom with her mother so that she could be with her family, rather than alone in assisted living. Nereida’s sacrifices and commitment to caring for her mother is heart-warming and a perfect example of what it means to be family. “Luckily for me, my mother still has a good sense of humor, so she makes every day worthwhile and gives me reasons to smile.”
Jenny has been caring for her daughter, who suffers from a gene mutation known as Ogden Syndrome, which has less than 100 diagnosis worldwide. This disorder causes epilepsy and daily seizures for her daughter, as well as prolonged QT, a visual processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and cerebral palsy. Her daughter requires assistance with nearly every aspect of daily life, as well as numerous appointments and therapies. “It’s been extremely difficult for both of us, yet has simultaneously been the most rewarding experience. I am so grateful that I get to be her primary caregiver because I truly know her and can understand her complexities in a way no one else can. It has also made me want to be more involved in advocating and raising funds for more research into her disorder. Caregivers have a unique and amazing skill set and I appreciate that you offer this opportunity for recognition.”
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