Congratulations to the five winners of our Second Annual Caregiving Visionary Award:
- Naomi Bourgeois
- Mike Eidsaune
- Julie Fleming
- Monika Gross
- Shawn Moore
The winners were chosen based on their answers to these three questions:
1. What do you believe is the greatest problem facing family caregivers today?
2. What’s your vision for solving this problem?
3. What’s your commitment to being a part of the solution?
Meet our five winners and read an excerpt from their response to the questions, below:
My vision is to provide family caregivers across the nation with more time for self-care activities. On average, caregivers spend 13 days a month on tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and giving medication, but most of these tasks can be delegated. KikuPal gives caregivers a tool to translate offers of support from their family, friends, co-workers, and community members into actual help that will free them for more time to practice self-care whether it be joining a support group, spending quality time with family and friends, exercising, attending their own medical appointments, meditating, etc… KikuPal acts as an extension of the caregiver and fulfills many of the delegatable activities, such as house cleaning, lawn care, meals, rides, and more. The caregivers’ support network help by purchasing KikuPoints, while the caregivers redeem them for the help/service they need, when they need it. Therefore, KikuPal makes it easier for others to help in a meaningful way without coordination hassles.
Family caregiving is foundational. Therefore improving support for family caregivers and enabling them to maintain a fundamental role, is not only beneficial to society, but it’s also, the right thing to do.
Ease of access to the resources and information they need to make informed care decisions–for their loved ones and for themselves–is one of the most demoralizing challenges caregivers face today. While there are a multitude of great resources out there, caregivers don’t necessarily know where to begin their search. Adding to their stress is their understanding that time and energy are finite. Given the choice between searching for support or just doing what needs to be done, we believe that caregivers are more likely to choose the latter.
Because family caregivers are often new to this role, they may feel unprepared for the journey ahead. Addressing their questions early-on and supporting them with information throughout their journey has a ripple effect on their entire caregiving experience. Connecting them to the resources they need in a meaningful way can better prepare them for their care responsibilities and how to take care of themselves to prevent burnout.
While caring for my father (who died with dementia in 2017), I felt isolated and frightened because it seemed that I was continuously bumping into unexpected problems even though I studied extensively and brought my legal training and experience to everything I did. When my father died, I considered terminating The Purple Sherpa so that I wouldn’t have to face the pain and fear of families affected by dementia, but I simply can’t walk away from the need I see. I am entirely committed to making the process easier for others. The Purple Sherpa is my full-time occupation now, and I’m enthusiastic about the programs and plans outlined above. I’m committed to creating a multifaceted web of support for those who work tirelessly to care for a loved one who’s living with dementia, generally without sufficient support or recognition. (I’m also committed to recruiting volunteers and interns since these objectives are too larg for one person.) Four years ago, I would not have dreamed that I would step into such a massive undertaking, but I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do. It’s my great honor to stand with and to represent dementia family caregivers.
The Poise Project is my commitment. I launched it as a 501(c)3 in May 2016 with a personal ten-year challenge commitment. At the end of our first fiscal year, we were already successful in receiving a $25,000 Parkinson’s Foundation NC Triangle Moving Day® Community Grant to design, implement, and research “Partnering with Poise” at eight sites in North Carolina. We then received a second Parkinson’s Foundation community grant in our second fiscal year for $10,000 to expand the program to Washington DC. And we received a third Parkinson’s Foundation community grant in our third fiscal year for $20,000 to design, implement, and research a new program in North Carolina for care partners and the people living with Parkinson’s they were caring for to learn together. Now, due to the advocacy of a care partner participant, Mary Lee Giblon-Sheahan, who was one of the people who nominated me for the Caregiving Visionary Award, we also have found a partner in IONA Social Services Center in DC to take on the course and fund it within their existing programming.
This is a model we will replicate. I am organizing professional development trainings for AT instructors to deliver this course this year in North Carolina, New York City, Chicago, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and for European instructors to gather in Switzerland. I have to say that I am most moved and excited to be doing a training of AT professionals in Tokyo and Kyoto in conjunction with The Poise Project’s participation at the World Parkinson Congress in June. In Japan, everyone is a care partner. It is socially and culturally expected that families take care of their parents and grandparents. With the collaboration and guidance of my AT colleagues in Japan, “Partnering with Poise” will find a new and unique, culturally appropriate form in Japan that will offer nurture and support to a population of care partners who may be the most underserved and invisible in all of our international communities.
The Poise Project has recently become a nonprofit member of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). We have applied for an AFA grant to fund “Partnering with Poise” in North Carolina for care partners of people living with AD or related dementias. This is a meaningful circle for me to close. I dedicate my efforts for care partners and my nomination for the Caregiving Visionary Award to my mother, Gudrun Weber Gross, who lived through Berlin in World War II, who lived for many years with Alzheimer’s disease, who I cared for from 1997 to 2009, and who would be so pleased and proud of her girl for doing this work.
My vision for solving this problem is to continue to advocate for the caregiver at our national level to get policy in place for family caregivers. We also need to educate our employers more by reaching out to the bigger companies. Many don’t know what a caregiver endures on a daily basis unless they experience it themselves. By educating employers they may be more apt to work with the caregiver to provide flex time or work from home options. For the caregiver that finds that they need to stay at home to care for their loved one we must provide education for them. They must know the signs of caregiver burden, burnout, and secondary post traumatic stress. One of the things that we teach in our restorative weekends is how caregiving is a role that we play. It is NOT our identity. When we lose our identity that is when the stress of caregiving can step in a wreak havoc on our lives. It is a hard enough journey in itself. We must find a way to not lose ourselves in the process.
We’ll continue to introduce you to our five winners as we’ll feature their stories on CareGiving.com and on Your Caregiving Journey podcast. Our winners also will receive a free registration to our Fourth Annual National Caregiving Conference which happens November 7-10, 2019, at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare. We’ll honor the recipients during our lunch and our live broadcast on Saturday, November 9.
Thanks to all who nominated and voted for our nominees. And, thanks to our winners for their inspiring work!