CICOA Caregiver of the Year – 2015
3 Touching Stories of Caregiving We Have to Share
CICOA recognizes its 2015 Caregiver of the Year finalists.
What does it take to be a great caregiver? CICOA is proud to recognize its three 2015 Caregiver of the Year finalists, each with an inspiring story of courage, sacrifice, strength and creativity while caring for another. The winner will be honored during CICOA’s annual Signature Breakfast on April 16. Each of these local, unpaid caregivers brings to the task his or her own unique strength—an essential tool in their caregiver toolkit.
About 10 years ago, Milana Riggs made a promise to a dying friend to take care of her parents in their old age. found In her caregiver toolkit: loyalty to a friend.
CICOA Caregiver of the Year finalist: Milana Riggs
Nominated by: friend David Spilker
Hometown: Carmel, Ind.
SPILKER SAYS: “Milana Riggs has taken care of my Uncle Paul and Aunt Georgia for about 10 years. Before her childhood friend Charlene Bradley (Paul and Georgia’s daughter) passed away, Milana promised to help take care of her parents in their old age, and she has not defaulted on this promise. Paul passed away in 2011 at the age of 101, and Georgia is now 103 and lives in Milana’s home.
“Paul and Georgia enjoyed a very full life of activities and events together. They were members of the Broad Ripple (White River) Yacht Club for a long time, and Milana always made an effort to take them to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities there every year. Milana took them to Symphony on the Prairie for their 80th wedding anniversary. The next day, they took a hot-air balloon ride at Conner Prairie and were interviewed by Dick Wolfsie.
“Aunt Georgia is not an easy soul to take care of, and she often only sleeps a few hours at a time. Milana is up with her whenever she wants, helping her with bathroom and shower needs. Milana had an elevator installed in her home so she could take Aunt Georgia up and down the stairs with grace and dignity.
“Milana makes an effort to keep Georgia looking forward to outings and is always planning for the next special thing. Milana has faced this task with great courage and fortitude, and I can think of nobody who deserves this award more.”
Angie Tyler was told her newborn son would never be able to communicate, walk, see, eat or drink. Now, 21 years later, Angie ensures he lives up to his potential. Found In her caregiver toolkit: vision.
CICOA Caregiver of the Year finalist: Angie Tyler
Nominated by: Mary Fouch and Jonie Fairbanks
FOUCH SAYS: “Angie Tyler was just a teenage mom when she found out her newborn son, Justin, had a condition called schizencephaly (or split brain). Doctors told Angie her son would have seizures and would never be able to communicate, walk, see, eat or drink. Now, 21 years later, Justin has graduated from Rise Learning Center, plays drums, is a regular at the Children’s Museum and attends concerts—all because Angie sees what he can do, instead of what he can’t.
“Angie also managed to become a certified public accountant while caring for her son, but that accomplishment seems like nothing compared to the day that Justin was able to hold his head up for a couple seconds. Angie has fought the government and medical system to allow Justin to stay at home where he is the happiest.”
FAIRBANKS SAYS: “Caring for Justin is a normal part of Angie’s life, but I would replace the words ‘caring for’ with ‘loving.’ It’s because of that love and the grace of God that Justin is with us today. His doctors agree that because of Angie’s strength, support and selfless concern, Justin has been able to beat many obstacles. Angie courageously approaches each and every scenario with Justin’s best interest in mind. I’ve lost count of the surgeries and hospital stays Justin has experienced, including six within the past year and a leg amputation. He has never stayed in a hospital alone. Angie is always there, day and night. She has made social, financial and physical sacrifices, but she never complains. Angie doesn’t see it as sacrifice—only as acts of love.”
Always bringing a smile to his mother’s face, David Fishman confronts caregiving challenges with nonsensical banter, a song or a hip wiggle. found In his caregiver toolkit: humor.
CICOA Caregiver of the Year finalist: David Fishman
Nominated by: his sister, Dawn Fishman
FISHMAN SAYS: “My brother David joined me 17 years ago to form a caregiving tag team for “Mom duty.” As a daughter, I’ve answered the call to do drug and grocery store shopping, laundry and check-ins, but David has done much more. He’s an outstanding example of how to deal with a beloved mother who has physical, emotional and mental impairment.
“David’s biggest strength is humor. He faces challenges with nonsensical banter, a song or a hip wiggle, and invariably diffuses difficult situations by making fun of himself. He never tries to change Mom. Instead, he accepts her, interacts with and respects her. David goes with the flow, and he never gives up.
“He’s invented treasure hunts around the house to help our mother walk. He’s used coloring books and crayons, magazines and sheet music to fire her imagination and stimulate conversation. He stretches out on her bed to watch TV. David is flexible and recognizes that what works for awhile eventually diminishes and a new activity is required.
“David has been there for every doctor, hospital and rehabilitation visit. He brings a smile to our mother’s face every day, and her first words of each day are ‘My son!’ aka ‘My sun!’ I thank him, and am so proud of him.”