CICOA’s Caregivers of the year!
To honor local caregivers who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of others, CICOA is proud to recognize its three Caregiver of the Year award finalists.
In 2014, CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions celebrates its 40th anniversary. Founded in 1974, this not-for-profit organization is the premier source of information and access to resources for older adults, people of any age with a disability and family caregivers living in Central Indiana.
Through a network of agencies, service groups and volunteers, CICOA provides home care services, home-delivered meals, home health care, transportation, accessibility modifications, respite care and caregiver assistance. Annually, CICOA’s Aging & Disability Resource Center handles more than 100,000 calls from people seeking assistance with aging and disability issues.
In his “Raising Dad” blog, Indianapolis resident Mark Lee writes: “On Thursday, August 30, 2013, my parents celebrated 59 years of marriage. On Wednesday, September 4, less than a week later, my father took his last breath. It’s the moments in between that make up this story.”
In October 2011, Mark moved into his parents’ home when his dad’s Alzheimer’s started to advance. Mark’s brother and sister live in California and flew out several times a year to help.
“It was a team effort in taking care of dad,” Mark says. “We were also lucky to have found Kelli Anderson, who cared for my father during the day each week.”
“It certainly wasn’t easy,” says friend Laura Musall, who nominated Mark for CICOA Caregiver of the Year. “A child—no matter the age—doesn’t expect they will have to parent their parent, but that’s exactly what happened.”
Mark found it helpful to chronicle his journey by blogging.
“I wrote about the funny things my father would say and do on Facebook,” Mark says. “About a month before my father died, I wrote my first blog for NUVO, and I am currently in the process of writing a book on our time together.”
In October, Mark and 20 of his friends also participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, raising more than $3,000.
“You need to be your own advocate,” Mark advises other caregivers. “And if you want to take care of someone and be there for them when they really need you, you have to learn to take care of yourself. Finally, enjoy every moment you have with your loved one.”
Kathleen Janneck of Coordinated Aging Services for Morgan County nominated Monica Work for CICOA Caregiver of the Year after witnessing the selfless devotion and love that Monica provides for her son, Josh.
Born in 1985 with Cerebral Palsy, Josh needs a consistent routine of constant care, which Monica delivers on a daily basis without fail. Several days each week, Monica gets Josh to Sycamore Services and other locations in the Martinsville community they call home, relying solely on public transportation and support services to do so. (Monica and Josh received a hydraulic lift in 2011 that makes things much easier; prior to that, Monica was lifting her 170-pound son into and out of his wheelchair all by herself.)
Josh had an older brother who helped out, but Monica’s eldest son also had medical problems and died of sleep apnea in 2011 at the age of 23.
“Both mother and son have suffered tremendously after the loss of their loved one, yet that loss has only made their bond even stronger,” Janneck says.
While Monica’s life is certainly not without its share of obstacles, she still faces each day with a positive attitude.
“It takes a lot of work, and a lot of love,” she says. “You just find the strength within yourself to do it.”
“Even with the stress and day-in, day-out challenges she experiences, we have never heard her complain,” Janneck says. “The unconditional love that Monica has for Josh is a beautiful thing to witness.”
Most folks are usually starting to slow down a little bit by age 80, but not Franklin resident Ruby Riota. In addition to caring at home for her husband Jack (age 89), Ruby serves as a volunteer coordinator for Johnson County Senior Services.
Caring for others is something that’s always come naturally for Ruby. At just eight years old, she would stop by the American Red Cross on her way home from school to roll bandages. These days, some of Ruby’s caregiving responsibilities include cooking, personal care, grocery shopping and managing the finances, all despite her own health limitations.
“My husband is blessed with the sharpest mind I know,” Ruby says. “He still manages money matters and medicines, but his mobility is limited, so I help him with those issues. And I take pride in preparing attractive and tasteful meals for him. I don’t think of myself as a caregiver, it’s just what I do out of love.”
“Ruby also schedules all the doctors’ appointments, and she handles all the insurance and medical bills,” adds Ruby’s nominator Kimberly Smith, executive director of Johnson County Senior Services. “She’s created a list of medicines in Excel (she’s very computer-savvy!), and she has compiled a complete medical history she keeps updated for Jack and herself.”
“Albert Einstein once said, ‘Any fool can know, but the point is to understand,’ and that’s a good analogy for where we are,” Ruby says. “You need to look at the patient and know what his limitations and needs are, and most importantly, to respect that.”