More than seven million Americans help older persons live in the community despite limitations on daily activities. Many adults also care for adult sons and daughters with disabilities. Family members and other informal caregivers truly are the backbone of our long-term care system. In Ohio alone, they contribute more than 1.1 million hours of unpaid help to others, care valued in excess of $10.4 billion. Nationally, family caregivers save taxpayers $257 billion.
Each year, the Ohio Department of Aging selects a handful of devoted caregivers and honor them for the work they do to make Ohio a better place, while symbolically recognizing the combined value of all informal caregivers throughout the state.
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2012 Elder Caregiver Award Recipients
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For photos from the May 22, 2012, awards ceremony, please visit our album on Facebook.
View the awards ceremony.
Susan Gaylord, Toledo
Susan Gaylord cared for her mother, Virginia, and sister, Patty, who had Down Syndrome, during the last years of their lives. Care and companionship are what she currently gives her father, Frank. Her patience and compassion kept everyone comfortable while she kept things running smoothly and arranged for cleaning, personal care and other services to keep the family functioning.
After her mother and sister passed, Susan turned her attention to her dad's needs. In 2009, he became dependent on her for full time care. She secured the help of the Monroe County Mental Health Authority, Area Agency on Aging 1B and the Monroe County Opportunity Program, and worked to secure his VA benefits to get him the help he needs.
Frank is no longer able to live by himself, so Susan and her sister, Rebecca, coordinate his daily activities and personal care. To help him cope with fading vision and hearing, the ladies found innovative solutions, such as larger magnifying glasses, special high-luminescence lights, a larger TV and a hearing aid. They also bought him a computer so that he can remain connected to family and friends.
Susan provided excellent care for her father even while she was dealing with her own health issues and her husband's disabling illness. She is a tireless advocate who does what she does with love and devotion. She knows what it takes to help those you care for and about living rich, meaningful life, regardless of limitations.
Cindy Gross, London
Cindy Gross knows what it means to "love thy neighbor." She spent her summers visiting her grandmother and now lives in her grandmother's house. Geraldine Henry has been her grandmother's neighbor since 1960, so Cindy has always known her. Viewing Geraldine as an adopted grandmother, Cindy looks after Geraldine's affairs to make sure she continues to remain in her own home, which means so much to her.
Cindy's help started with little things like getting her groceries, filling prescriptions, managing her medications, taking Geraldine to doctor's appointments and her cats to the vet and helping Geraldine maintain her house. Cindy later became Geraldine's power of attorney to manage her assets and pay her bills. Cindy ensures Geraldine has enough to live comfortably.
Today, Geraldine is no longer physically independent and needs 24-hour assistance. Cindy worked with Geraldine to interview and hire caregivers who would respect the elderly woman and give her the care that she needs. Cindy manages the schedules and payment for each caregiver, while never even thinking to pay herself. Last year, when Geraldine fell and broke several bones, Cindy was by her side and missed work to make sure Geraldine received the best care.
Cindy also tends to her own family, her home and full-time job at Madison County Hospital. Cindy's daughter describes Geraldine's relationship to her family, "As Geraldine was always a part of Cindy's life, so was she a large part of our lives. Geraldine became like a grandmother to us, picking us up from school, nursing us when sick, and even teaching us to sew and cook. Although she always retained the spark of youth, as we grew older, so did Geraldine. And as naturally as Geraldine played the role of grandmother, Cindy stepped into the role of her caretaker."
Cindy is planning Geraldine's 99th birthday celebration this year, and both women already have plans in the works for her 100th.
Audrey Helton, Goshen
Audrey Helton became caregiver for her husband, Estel, when a stroke left him with limited mobility and speech. She provided his personal care, as well as managed the daily household operations like cleaning, shopping, laundry, cooking and paying bills. Her approach to caring for Estel may have changed when she broke her arm in 2010, but her passion for ensuring he had the best care possible never waned.
Immediately after her accident, Audrey sought the assistance of Clermont Senior Services to assist them both. Aides provided help with cleaning and daily tasks so that Audrey could focus on meeting Estel's personal needs and wishes. For example, Audrey made it possible for him to participate in church service via streaming Internet video, since his severe allergies often prevented him from leaving the house.
Their daughter was born with a rare eye disorder, Achromatopsia, she is legally blind with no color vision. It was through her mother's love, support and guidance that she is now grown with a family of her own and works outside the home. Audrey still assists her in small ways, like reading labels for her when they go grocery shopping.
Audrey's selfless nature allows her to keep active and doing what she can to help herself and her family, and she is all the wiser for knowing when to ask for and receive help. Estel passed away in April, 2012.
Dr. John Mattox, Flushing
Dr. John Mattox gave his wife, Rosalind, around-the-clock care for four years until she passed away in November. "Rozz," as she was known to friends, had a recurring brain tumor that required multiple surgeries and led to seizures and chronic weakness.
John provided her personal care, such as bathing, brushing her teeth, preparing meals and feeding. He also dispensed her medications and moved her around the house so she would be more comfortable. He discussed politics with her to keep her engaged while he did the regular household chores.
John utilized technology and human support to increase his ability to meet her needs. She stayed connected with the world via the Internet, and when her physical abilities declined, John set up voice recognition software to keep her engaged. He also used a monitor to watch Rozz when he went the store or left the house for a bit, so he could return quickly should she need him.
John coordinated with staff at Area Agency on Aging 9 for support, and the couple's two children took turns visiting on the weekends, with Rozz's four grandchildren. Today, John takes care of himself by gardening and planting flowers that Rozz loved, like orchids. He also is the curator of the underground railroad museum in Flushing and is a member of several organizations, including "A Special Wish Foundation."
Linda Yoest, DeGraff
Linda Yoest is a resourceful family caregiver. She and her husband, Chris, (formerly foster parents) are now parents to one adopted child and permanent legal guardians of three other children who are family members--two of the children have special needs. Linda has also cared for her mother, Rosena, since her father passed away 10 years ago. When it comes to the daunting task of balancing parenting with the caregiving of her mother, Linda excels because of her creativity.
Linda expertly plans her family's schedules to ensure her kids can participate in the activities that enrich their lives, and that Rosena gets to the places that she needs to be. As a result, the children and Rosena benefit from their time together. Prior to Rosena moving with Linda and her family, the kids frequently visited their grandmother, who taught them cooking and sewing. Linda and Chris take Rosena to Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia to visit family.
Linda's sister Nancy says that Linda "wants better lives for her children and a quality living for Mom." Linda advocates for her mother regarding her medical care. She researches and is unafraid to ask questions of the doctor and others involved in her mother's care. Linda responds nimbly to her mother's changing needs. Last year, after suffering congestive heart failure, Rosena was no longer able to maintain her own apartment; Linda rearranged her own home and moved her mother in with her and her family. Linda's brother, Chick, often stays with their mother when Linda has to be gone for long periods of time including the children's ball games and appointments.
Linda stretches the family food dollar and shops at thrift stores to make the family's limited resources go farther. She sends regular family e-mails about how Rosena and everyone are doing. As Rosena needs more attention, Linda and Nancy, who lives in Michigan, are figuring out how to share caring for Rosana. With Linda's dedication and resourcefulness, Nancy is confident they will find new ways to solve age old problems.
Watch the awards ceremony.