Barbara Cook
Founder - New Concepts by Visions

Who is Barbara Cook?  

Barbara grew up in a military family the 4th of 5 children.  Settling on a farm when she was 8 learning where she learned the meaning of hard work, discipline and teamwork and business.  At an early age she cared for animals that needed more care than the mothers were able to give.  This nurturing gift is part of her makeup and is so easily shared with others.  In school she was very involved in her local FFA learning leadership skills, as the Chairman of several committees, as well as Regional Reporter for our area of the state.  As the green hand public speaker, part of the agriculture forum team a competitiveness side emerged that continues with her tenacious pursuit to achieve the dreams and goals she sets. 

After High school she continued her education and became a beautician, managed a 48-unit apartment complex and built a house all by the age of 25.  This is when her adventurous side emerged doing hair in a nursing home, and opening her own mobile shop going to foster care homes.  This opened the door to her love of others in need.  She worked on campus as a night manager for a transitional program for individuals with mental illness.  Learning to deal with many personalities fostering the optimistic side in them to believe they could do many things they were previously told they could not.  Using humor and being relatable was a way to build the trust and the working relationship they needed while maintaining integrity and discipline. 

In 1999 she moved to Florida with her husband and youngest son and began working as a group home manager, as a case manager then as an assistant director of a program for individuals with disabilities.  This is where the adventure began. . .  2003 branching out to start a company of her own, offering choices for meaningful daily activities then a second company a not for profit.  Using her optimistic persistent side she managed to get through the red tape.   Barbara wrote her first grant (with the help of a parent of an individual she served).  It was a federal grant for a 14-passenger lift van to be able to take the individuals out of the 4 walls of the day program and into the community. Let the adventures begin. The look on the faces and the joy in their voices when they tell of the experiences they are having.  When asked what they liked and did not like about the trip to the zoo the one response that sticks very vividly is the crinkled-up nose on the young lady that said she did not like the monkeys because they stink.

Teaching the individuals we serve that it is okay to not like something has been a challenge while teaching they can do thing for others has been a new experience for all.  We were creative and started a food pantry where we are partners with Heartland Food Bank and provide food to others in need.  Teaching job skills and the importance of doing whatever you can for another person even when they cannot do something for you.  This has increased the way the individuals think about themselves increasing self-worth and stimulating the “I can” instead of the “I can’t” poor me.    

Recognizing that it could not be done without the incredible staff who work for much less than they are worth.  Balancing the business and the staff can be a bit challenging but having fostered the I can in them and being a work in progress myself not micromanaging them and letting their creative sides shine has built a team of dedicated determined staff who are second to none.

The teachable moments when you see on the individual’s faces that they found the key and unlocked the right answers, was and still is the reason why Barbara does what she does.

 I have a great family who taught me I could do whatever I wanted.   Even fly if I tied mom’s sheet to my ankles and wrists and ran really fast across the chicken coop roof and jumped off.  When it didn’t work my brother told me it was because I did not run fast enough and to try it again. . .  yep I did and the same thud occurred.  HUMOR, Optimism, and Passion are an important factor in my life, learn from the things you try even if they don’t work.  Look, reflect, learn, and if nothing else they are a great reason to laugh.

 

Betty Jordan
Receptionist - Water's Edge of Lake Wales

Hi,

 My name is Betty Jordon.  I’m a young lady at the age of 67 years old.  I’m a mail carrier, receptionist, caregiver, etc.  I’ve been a caregiver all my life, but it truly showed when I started working at Water’s Edge of Lake Wales in 2009.  I started and remain a part time receptionist, but I find myself there at least 16 hours a day.  I met so many residents and I grew to love them very much.  I assist over 30 residents aged 68-95 with daily needs including personal hygiene, bathing, dressing.  I also take care of household activities such as grocery shopping, preparing meals, cleaning, and managing finances.  I help them in every possible way I can.  You might ask, why?  I am a compassionate and empathetic person by nature, and have no problem connecting with people from all walks of life.  I really enjoy helping others and making a difference in other people’s lives.  The most rewarding and fulfilling thing for me is when I am able to make another person’s life easier or more pleasant, and I hope to continue that in my role as a caregiver!

 

Bracey Pam

My story began when I was 21 Years old. I married my high school sweetheart, Brian, on December 16, 1989. We had a beautiful wedding with lots of family and friends. I will never forget my father walking me down the aisle with tears in his eyes, and in mine too. I was a daddy’s girl growing up and I still am at the age of 50. Of course, I loved my mom just as much and still do, but I went everywhere with my dad.  He took me to run errands, to the store to pick up items that mom needed (and always bought me something extra), and mom and I would even go on business trips with him. I remember sitting in the car and or hotel room and playing Candy Land while daddy was out working. Those were such special times that I will always treasure; unfortunately, 5 months after I was married our lives were forever changed.

My father was a food salesman for Tyson Chicken. He oversaw setting up Tyson products in grocery stores. At the time, Food Lion was opening stores in Florida so my dad, who lived in North Carolina (N.C.), came to Florida to put their products in the Food Lion Stores. He was working in Tampa and would drive to Lakeland after work to spend the night with me and my husband. I had come home from work and was cooking dinner. Brian was at the ballpark playing in his weekly league. I will never forget getting a phone call from someone at the store saying these words, “Your father has collapsed, and we think he had a heat stroke.” I remember rushing to the ballpark to get Brian (we didn’t have cell phones) and we drove to the hospital in Lutz to be with my dad.  We saw my dad and the doctor told us that my father had a brain aneurysm rupture and is not expected to make it through the night. However, if he does make it, he will need surgery as soon as the swelling goes down— even then he only has a 50/50 chance of making it through surgery or if he doesn’t have surgery he only has 2 weeks to live.

So, the doctor called my mom because I could not, and she flew in the next morning to stay with my dad. Daddy had surgery and during surgery he had a stroke that paralyzed his entire left side. He had to learn how to talk again, walk again, feed himself, re-learn everything. Daddy was in the hospital and rehab from May until October. My mom lived with us during that time so her and I could go to the hospital and be with him every day. Finally, Daddy was able to go back to NC that October. I went for a little while to try and help them get settled, but mainly to ease my mind. Returning to Florida and leaving my parents in N.C. was very hard, but I had a younger brother and sister who he was very excited to see not to mention the rest of his family.

My dad lived at home for about a year with my grandmother living there and taking care of him while mom worked. My sister was 8 and my brother was 15. Granny got to the point where she could not take care of him anymore, mainly because of her age and failing health so that’s when I received another phone call I will never forget.  My mom called me at work telling me she was having to put my dad in a nursing home. For me that was devastating, considering my father was only 46 years old. I remember leaving work early that day and crying myself to sleep that night. Back then, there were no Assisted Livings in N.C. where he lived, so I convinced mom to move to Florida and move daddy into an Assisted Living Facility (ALFs). Daddy unfortunately did not get enough disability to pay for it, so mom and I split the balance. Soon after, my mom filed for a divorce and that’s when I became my father’s primary caregiver— I was only 22.

It broke my heart to see my dad living in an Assisted Living with all those “old” people.  So twice a week after I got off work, I drove to Winter Haven and spent the evening with him and then on Saturdays or Sundays my dad spent the whole day with me and Brian. He went everywhere with us – from shopping, going out to eat, to playing games at our friend’s house.  Brian, my husband, was so good about everything. Never complaining about any of it. He did tell me I was not going to be able to keep up this pace forever, but I was stubborn and had to figure it out for myself. I sort of felt like I had to somehow replace mom.  Daddy basically lost everything, his ability to walk and drive, his job which he loved, his wife of 26 years. It all broke my heart. I wanted everything to be perfect and it was not.

Over the past thirty years, my dad has endured so many obstacles. Everything from living in so many different ALF’s, being in and out of the hospital for seizures, falls and pneumonia, being put on puree diets, and even fracturing his non-paralyzed shoulder and going into a rehab hospital 2 hours from me. Even during that time, I remember driving there almost every day to see him.

Since June of 2017, things have been especially hard for my dad. He was in the hospital with pneumonia because the Assisted Living was not giving him breathing treatments for over a week. Then in September of 2017, he had a grand mal seizure which led him being admitted into the ICU because the Assisted Living let his seizure medicine run out. Daddy was soon discharged into rehab, and 4 days into rehab, the rehab facility gave him the wrong medication and almost killed him. He was readmitted into the ICU and the doctors did not think he was going to make it. But my dad is a fighter and he did make it! He has pulled through so many times. It shows that God has him here for a reason. 

Until you must deal with something like this personally, you cannot fully understand what all goes into it. Physically and mentally, it can be so draining and can put a strain on the entire family, but it can be so rewarding. I am my dad’s voice. So, if I’m not there at the hospital, at therapy, at the rehab, or at the assisted living, many times he is not taken care of properly. Anything from not getting him out of bed all day, giving him the wrong diet, making him go to bed at night before he is ready, to letting his medications run out.

A perfect example of this is his last stay at the hospital. The medication list is never correct. His allergy list is never correct. Even though I was there every day, he was still given a medication on his allergy list and slept for 3 days. Everyone thought he had a major decline, but it took my sister and I to figure out what was going on. Just last month in rehab, the doctor wrote his pain med script wrong and had doubled the dosage which again made him sleepy and lethargic. Again, it took us figuring it out. Nothing anywhere is safe.

I am blessed to have a job that allows me to take off to care for my dad and a husband who is patient, understanding and always willing to help. Just like this past weekend, someone offered to watch our daughter, so we could have date night. Guess where we ended up? Yes, at my dad’s for 3 hours. It’s not easy nor always convenient, and I am far from the perfect daughter. I look back over the years and beat myself up sometimes because I could have done so much more, but trying to juggle babies, work, being a wife and other commitments.

Thirty years is a long time. It has been all but 6 months of my married life and it is all my children have ever known. They never had a chance to know my dad like I did. The happy go lucky, never met a stranger, liked everyone and was such a people person guy that he was. My dad would love to be playing with our daughter and taking her shopping. He loved to shop! She would have had him wrapped around her finger. He would have also loved to go on an airplane ride with our son, Layton. I so wish I could take him on trips with me when I’m working. Yes, I am very much like my dad. And even now, with all he has endured, he still says he’s going to get better. He has 3 things helping him: a sweet loving family, Jesus Christ and never giving up. He truly has a positive attitude and good outlook on life. I am so happy to say that in these thirty years my father has had the entire support of my family. He has never spent a holiday or birthday alone.

Hi, my name is Pamela Bracey. I am 50 years old, mother of 3 beautiful children. Easton, age 22 and in pharmacy school studying to be a critical care pharmacist. Layton, age 19 and studying to become a commercial pilot. Brila, age 11 and busy being a little girl. I am a wife of 30 years to Brian, a flight attendant for a commercial airline, and this is my story.    

We can’t abandon our parents just because they are old or disabled, they took care of us. Now it is our time to take care of them.                        

 

Cindy Sutliff
Caregiver - Comfort keepers

My name is Cindy sutliff.  I am 61 years old and have been working as a caregiver with comfortkeepers for two and a half years. I also help with the older people in church, when needed.  My husband, Craig, and my daughter, Kate help out as well. 

I have lived in florida for 10 years. We moved here because my parents live here. We now have all moved in together. Taking care of people that need it fills a special spot in my life. 

 

 

Cora Schwingel
Administrator - Change of Pace

Cora Schwingel is the administrator of Change of Pace, an adult daycare center on Hammock Road.  Cora trains and manages both volunteers and paid professionals to provide personal care for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.  She also facilitates four weekly caregiver support groups.  Change of Pace recently received Highlands Today People’s choice award for best senior care.  Having witnessed the enormous stress that caregiving placed on her mother, Cora is committed to the caregivers of Highlands County by providing the best care possible for their loved ones so that they can focus attention on caring for themselves. 

Cora is a Florida native who grew up in Kissimmee.  She is married to a really awesome man who wrote this bio for her and loves spending time with her children and grandchildren. Aside from spending time with friends and family, Cora especially likes to travel and see new places.

Deborah Lacroix
Caregiver - Rent a Relative in Sebring

Ive been a caregiver for over 30 years and work for Rent A Relative in Sebring.  The best part of being a caregiver is knowing that I am helping others have a better day

Jill McGaffigan

To Whom It May Concern:

I was so surprised to receive the nomination for the “Caregiver of the Year” award by your committee!  It is difficult to express my appreciation to you and to those who submitted my name because I have never expected or thought about recognition.  I am full of joy and satisfaction simply by seeing Susan Pate smile each day.  My goal is to keep her safe, at peace, and happy.  My hope is that I provide dignified, respectful and safe care for Susan by constantly keeping in mind that this situation could just as likely have been reversed.  That truth helps me to think about how I would want to be treated in each situation and attempt to treat Susan in the same way.  Even though her behavior has progressively become more childlike, I work hard not to respond to her as her behavior warrants.  I try to use soothing, loving, and encouraging words spoken tenderly but not with a condescending or scolding tone. The fact is that she isn’t like a toddler because she is not going to learn and behave differently the next time just because I have reprimanded her.  Susan was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at age 55 and, therefore, she honestly cannot help her behavior and it is only going to deteriorate with time.  It is my responsibility to accept her reality and help Susan to live each day with as much joy as is possible.  I have promoted physical, social, and mental interaction with Susan differently as her disease has progressed.  Seven years ago, we regularly walked together since Susan has always enjoyed walking.  Lake Hollingsworth, BOK Tower Garden, and Circle B Bar Reserve were several of her favorite places to walk and we visited them often. I also took her with me to shop for our groceries, clothing, or Christmas gifts. We both enjoy finding a deal so we would go hunting down the best we could find at Goodwill or Salvation Army. I always took her with me to bridal and baby showers as well as to any party involving our church or circle of friends. Since our husbands work for the same company, we also attended work social events together. For one such event, I recall finding the cutest formal dress for Susan at Goodwill and we only paid $8!  We were both thrilled.  Susan has also been volunteering for one of our friends who owns a store.  The work and time spent in the store setting seems to have helped Susan feel needed and has also kept her involved with the outside world.  When she could no longer drive herself, I began taking her for her volunteer hours. She still goes periodically for an hour or so but her ability to help in that setting is fast dwindling.  Also, we have always worked jigsaw puzzles together and often played Scrabble so those are games that we initially continued.  We had to quit Scrabble about 5 years ago, but we still work at puzzles at some level.

When Susan and I used to sit around and drink coffee or travel together, we enjoyed cross-stitching and she always had a crochet project in the works.  A year or two before Susan’s diagnosis, she had quit both and neither her husband, Tommy, nor I could understand why she quit these activities she loved so much! About two years after her diagnosis, I realized why. She simply could not follow the patterns anymore!  So, I had a friend of mine teach me to crochet. Then, I put a hook in Susan’s hand and told her I was going to teach her to crochet. As soon as I began, she knew exactly what to do.  I was amazed.  And, although she could only manage one stitch and certainly could not follow a pattern, I believe it engaged her mind in a way that was good for her and she has made dozens of adorable baby blankets that we have given away. This has obviously brought Susan great satisfaction.  At present, that ability is quickly leaving her.

Soon after Susan’s diagnosis, it really became apparent that a true conversation was not possible.  So, the way that we shared dialog was for me to listen to her tell her stories, repeatedly, and I would respond in a conversational manner by feeding her information I already knew about her, her family, and her life. She would often get the details of her own stories wrong.  Early on, I would correct her until I learned that it did not do any good.  Correcting my friend only made her feel badly, often confused her, and she usually shut down her conversation.  When I accepted that it simply did not matter if the details were correct then I think the conversations were better therapy for Susan.  I could listen and respond and the rhythm and flow was calming for her. I also found that when I spoke positive statements to Susan in response to anything negative then she would eventually begin to repeat the phrases.

Susan and I have often traveled together. We are both from NC and we both have family there.  Sometimes, we would make our rounds to several relatives and other times we simply went to my family mountain house and relaxed together.  In a fairly short amount of time, I realized the need to take someone else with me on these trips as my caregiving responsibilities became weightier and Susan was less able to do things like go to the restroom herself in a restaurant or be left alone anywhere. Taking someone with me ensured Susan’s safety and my mental well-being as I had someone to share the load and to converse with when Susan was napping or asleep at night.

The way that I have balanced my needs with the needs of Susan is by having regular, open, honest dialog with her husband, my husband, my closest friends, and the Lord. I have also been transparent with friends about my needs and they have jumped in to help whenever necessary. I have tried to remain as available as possible because I want Susan to have the care of someone who knows her well and loves her deeply.

I also wanted to see Tommy survive her illness and be able to live a quality life now and in the future. Tommy and I attended several seminars at the onset of Susan’s diagnosis and one of the many things I learned is that so many caregivers who are spouses or children end up with a dramatically shortened life due to the stress.

My husband, Andy, and I agreed that we wanted to support our friends as they see this through and we realized from the beginning that this is just for a season of our lives. We are able to sacrifice some of our freedom right now to make ourselves available for Tommy and for Susan.  Soon after Susan’s diagnosis 7 years ago, we formed a dinner group to meet at the Pate’s home on a weekly basis.  It began as 4 couples and has morphed over the years due to death, moves, and illness. But, a group still meets weekly at the Pate’s for dinner. We knew this would be important initially for Susan and Tommy to feel connected and supported.  Later, it was obviously for Tommy’s sake that we continued.

This same group used to take a fall trip to my NC mountain house to have a respite from the daily schedule. We no longer go with the husbands because it just doesn’t do much to help Tommy’s stress level anymore. We also attend church together and, since this is the most important aspect of our lives, we go to most events together so that Tommy can be free to mingle and I can help Susan to have some normalcy in that setting. Our church family has been part of Susan and Tommy’s care since the beginning. Before full-time care was required, I organized a group of ladies who could give a few hours a week to hang out with Susan. We had a weekly schedule set up in which someone was there from when Susan awoke from her nap around 2pm until around 6pm which is when Tommy usually got home from work. Later, we increased the times to include a morning shift. At the height of need before the step to full time care was required, we had over 20 women involved in this outreach to Susan. I think the concept of this group care for Susan made a huge difference in both Tommy’s and my mental health. We have all received awesome support from our friends and our church!

At the time that I began taking care of Susan 3 years ago, my workdays were 8-10 hours on Monday - Friday and a few hours on Saturday. The weeks of respite care for Tommy added significant hours, of course. But, at that time, Susan was still able to be involved in many daily activities. I was responsible for the grocery shopping and meal prep but Susan was able to help me in the kitchen. I was responsible for the laundry but mostly as oversight as Susan could fold and put away the clothes herself. As Susan’s mental health has declined, she is no longer interested in these activities and is incapable of performing simple tasks. With the help of my daughter who teaches pre-school, we now have a few sorting activities that Susan can do that seem to help her feel like she is productive, they certainly keep her mind engaged. We still work on puzzles; I have had to pull out the ones that have become too difficult and cause frustration rather that enjoyment. I have learned the parts of Susan’s favorite puzzles that are just too challenging; I discreetly put those pieces in place for her. Some of the puzzles have difficult frames and I have taped those edge pieces together to alleviate any frustration for Susan. These techniques seem to keep her happy and engaged. To illustrate the change in my dear friend, I now spend 12 hours daily with Susan on Monday - Saturday. My hours can easily jump from the normal 72 weekly to 130 plus (and those extra hours are volunteered) when we travel somewhere to give Tommy the space he needs to stay healthy. I now bathe Susan, help her with her personal care, choose her clothing, and guide her through her daily activities. She cannot converse and most words of instruction are not comprehended. We listen to Christian radio while working puzzles, riding in the car, running errands, or working with our sorting games. She knows almost ALL of the words...even to the new songs...it is amazing! Susan remains happy, healthy, and busy most of her days and this makes us both smile!

As I mentioned earlier, Tommy and I attended a few seminars early on in this journey in order to educate ourselves. One important thing we learned is that the bigger the disease gets the less time the primary caregiver needs to spend with the care-recipient. The emotional strain is just that intense!  So, I have always been committed to helping Tommy stay healthy by giving him respite care, as needed. Tommy told me at the onset that respite for him was better done at home.  In other words, it was better for him if I took Susan somewhere for a week rather than him leaving for a week. Initially, Susan and I would simply take a trip together to the North Carolina mountains once a month. As time has progressed, it was not always possible to drive all the way to NC as often as respite was needed for Tommy’s care. We have several mutual friends who have helped out by offering their homes as a place that Susan and I could hang out for a few days at a time. We have been able to drive 2 hours to a friend’s home and settle in for a few days. It has been wonderful to be able to be around a good friend while giving Tommy time alone at home. Other times, when it was not convenient to go to my good friend’s house, another dear friend across town has let us stay with her.  She has graciously opened her home up as a place Susan and I could stay for as long as needed. We simply pack up what is needed and have the freedom to come and go at Betty’s house. These friends as well as Tommy and Susan’s daughter in St. Augustine, Lela, have all been places Susan and I could comfortably go for anywhere from a few days to a week at a time. We go as needed by Tommy but has recently been a 4-5 days every two weeks.

Tommy and I have been aware from the beginning of the awful diagnosis that there will likely come a time when Susan will need to be placed in a care facility. We both feel that it is best that she stay in her own home as long as we are all able to handle her care. And, Tommy has put in place the appropriate legal documents so that I would step up as her primary caregiver if something were to happen to him before Susan’s passing. But, we both understand that it is better to make a decision about a care facility before reaching the moment of need. Tommy invited me to join him in that process of checking out the options. We have made a decision and it has given us a settled feeling to know what steps we will take, when necessary.

Thank you for allowing me to share our daily lives with you. It is such a humbling and precious experience to be considered for this award and, regardless of the outcome, I have been blessed by the nomination.

Yours truly,

Jill McGaffigan

Sandra Collins

I'm going to try and write a short story of how it came about that I took care of my mother for 22 years.

My mother and I have always been close because we were kindred spirits. I am her oldest daughter, of 3 and an older Brother.

When our Dad passed away she tried living with my brother and his wife, but there was conflict so that didn't work out. Then, my grandmother’s health got bad and she moved to Alabama to take care of her. She took care of her for about two years. We communicated back forth. She finally told me she couldn't do it anymore and had to put her in a nursing care center.  So, I told her we were going to sale our small home and get a bigger one, and she was going to come live with us.  Of course, my husband agreed.

So, my youngest sister, and I got on a plane and flew to Alabama to get mom and drove mom’s car back to Florida in 1998. We sold our place and bought a 5-bedroom home. Our son and daughter also lived with us, until they got married. After two years of being married and becoming the father of our first grandchild, he went through a hurtful divorce, his wife threatening to keep the baby from us, our son attempting suicide, this momma did a lot of praying, and God had mercy! He came back to live with us and was able to see his daughter.

 I went to work, while mom stayed home, and she would have the house cleaned supper cooked and ready when I got home. I loved my mom’s cooking. Then one day I come home, and there had been a fire in the kitchen, mom had turned the wrong burner on, and went to lay down, and there was a pot of grease on the eye she had turned on. Our son was asleep because he worked at night he smelled the smoke and heard the alarm and jumped up and put the fire out with the fire extinguisher. Mom was in her 70's then, and experiencing chronic pain, from a fall and accidents in the past years, where she had been hit by a car and thrown and injured her head and crushed her pelvis, The Drs told her she would not walk again, but we prayed and God healed her, but as time went on the nerves in her body began to burn: The doctor called it Fibromyalgia.

It got to where she didn't want to move, so I quit my job and started staying home to help her. It was then I realized my mom was getting old.  As the years went by she got worse, and it was harder and harder to get her to do anything but lay in bed, so I would wait on her and help her with her bath. Then her insurance changed and I could get a nurse to help her. Mother started losing her taste and smell it was hard to find her anything she would eat. 

One thing after the other. She could not take the meds the doctor subscribed, we tried it all, she was allergic or had a reaction to them. So, we just gave her pain meds over the counter. As time went on she started losing her muscles from not moving, I couldn't get her to do anything, so they started sending out a therapist. She would try and use her walker, but it hurt her hands. So, she started falling, having to go to the hospital for broken ribs, twice and breaking her hip, and bruising herself up. I felt so helpless not knowing what to do, but pray, and pray I did. She has fallen 7 times in the last 5 years. I struggled for years whether I should put her in a convalescent center, but it was hard. So, I did not do it, at that time. In between all this, I had an emotional breakdown. 

Anyway, back to my story, as time went on my daughter had our 3 grandkids that lived here and went to the same church.  The church broke up because of burnout and other things happening in his life.  Our pastor went on the streets pastoring the homeless for two years. All the while, all of us that were left looking for a church go to, we all started Transforming Life Church, running a feeding ministry out of it.  My daughter and Son-in-law are very involved. Eventually turning it over to my husband and me. We would pick up the food from another church and deliver it to feed them in the park.  We did that for about 3 years. All the while our pastor and my husband Don, running a prison ministry.  Our pastor and his wife took in a man that was mentally challenged because his mother passed away, so they became his legal guardian.  Our pastor and his wife decided they wanted to start a ministry for pastors that have experienced burnout in the church, but they wanted to do it in NC.  So, they set out to do that. All the while my daughter and grandkids planning to go with them to help with the ministry. (You can imagine when they came and told my husband and me that they were moving to NC, it broke my heart, I wanted to go with them, but I couldn't because there was no one to take care of mom, I was torn between wanting to be with my grandkids and leaving mom in a home I still couldn't do it).)  Anyway, the Man, our pastor and his wife had living with them did not want to go. So, they had to find a place for him. 

They ask several people and they could not take him in. My husband knew the situation and volunteered to take him in talking to me first, although I was against it because I had enough to worry about with mom, he talked me into it.  I told him that I was not going to take care of him, that was his baby, and mom was mine. Although it turned out to be mine, because I had to do all the cooking, until I realized he could get meals on wheels.  My husband does his laundry and takes him to his doctor appointments and make sure of his hygiene. (Thank God) Just being honest I was still dealing with the fact I wasn't going to get to see my grandkids. I cried off and on for that a whole year!  I had to pray, God if this is you, help me!  It's been hard, but I have adjusted, and God has made a way for us to go back and forth as much as we can to be with them. It has been almost 7 years now. 

Backing up my story, in 2011, my husband was diagnosed with COPD, due to his and my health now (my knees, avoiding surgery.) I could not take care of mom anymore, and he can't take care of Jimmy anymore. I tried putting mom in a care home, but she kept falling.

And in the meantime, my youngest sister's granddaughter moves out, she that had lived with her at the time, so she offered to take mom in, I prayed.  It was hard to give her up, but I knew it was time.  Seems that was the answer, her husband is a truck driver and she has time on her hands now. So now Mom is with her. I recently took mom for a week for her to spend time with him, and she had to sleep with me, it was great to have her lay beside me, and her and I to be able to hold each other.  Just like I did as a child. I'll have that memory for when she's gone. Although she is doing better, she is losing her memory, (having signs of Dementia.) 

We are looking for someone to take Jimmy (the man child) in because we are ready to live our lives together while we still can. We are in our 60's. We are going to sell our home and find a smaller one here, and a small one in NC, with our kids, because in between all this our son also moved up there to be with his daughter.   So that's it in a nutshell, God has helped us all the way, and helped me to be patient. He has a plan, and he is working everything out for our good!  

 

Sandy Gipson
Founder - Sunshine Home and Companion Care, LLC

I need to start off by saying that my mother was affectionately called Sunshine. We all called her Sunshine because when all of her grandbabies were little, she would rock them to sleep singing ‘you are my sunshine, my only sunshine’.  Her grandkids grew up calling her Sunshine as a result of that and the name stayed with her even to this day.

Several years back before my mom went to be with the Lord, she was in and out of rehab facilities.  During that time, I was with her every day that I was not at work.  I spent a lot of time there and I am so grateful.

While I was there, I noticed that there were many residents that have no visitors ever. The only visitors they had were the nurse for the medication time of the day and the CNA to help them with their grooming and dressing in the Moring and evening, and the kitchen aid that delivered meals to the rooms for those who didn’t want to go to the dining room.

It was so sad for me to watch them all lined up in wheelchairs in the main room just to get a glimpse of life and activity, with still no family or friends coming by to visit.

When my mom passed away in 2016 I found that I missed the residents at the rehab facility that she used in the last 3 years of her life.  I really missed these folks.   On the day that I realized that I missed them, I realized that I loved them and my love for geriatrics grew more and more.  With my heart heavy I realized that I had to do something.  I contacted the facility and established a relationship with the activities director and told her that I wanted to do something big for them.

I started spending my free time just visiting the residents and it grew from there. This is where my ministry, Sunshine for Seniors Ministries was birthed.  I decided that I wanted to do even more.  I got permission from the facility and we planned our first Christmas event. I blasted Facebook and reached out for general gift donations.  Then the facility gave me a list of specific wish lists and it grew from there.  We received enough donations for 2 facilities, and it was amazing!

Year 2 we had enough for 3 facilities and the 3rd year (2018) we had enough for 5 facilities. This year we are on target for 7 facilities with donations already coming in.

Also, we’ve hosted 2 Makeover / Glamour shot day’s in Oct 2017 and Oct 2018 and scheduled for Oct 2019.  We have tons of volunteer hairdressers and makeup artists come in and glamour them up and we have so many props and backdrops and professional photographers shooting the glamour shots that would bring happy tears to anyone. 

Geriatrics is my passion and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Thank you so much

Sandie