Visionary Award Nominee: Chris Damon

Denise

Visionary Award Nominee: Chris Damon

Denise
Nominated by: Linda Rockwell

Tell us about the nominee's caregiving story.
Christine Damon, BA, MS Ed., MFCS, CAPS, is the founder and Executive Director of CareSmart Illinois. Chris is a three-time family elder caregiver with professional experience in geriatric care management, care transitions, dementia care and training, adaptive housing, discharge planning, and caregiver support. A former teacher and college administrator, she holds Master's degrees in Adult Education and Gerontology (the study of the social, psychological, cognitive, spiritual, and biological aspects of aging). Previous leadership experience in the field of aging include work as a national trainer for Dementia Care Specialists; Program Director, Community Caregivers (the largest volunteer program in the New York Capital District); and Eldercare Respite Coordinator, Catholic Charities Caregiver Support services. Focused on family caregivers, older adults, and adults with disabilities, she draws heavily on her professional and personal experience to create and deliver programs designed to meet the their needs.

Tell us about the support the nominee provides. What makes it innovative? How has the support made caregiving easier or better?
In 2014, Chris founded a non-profit organization called CareSmart, whose mission was providing support to caregivers. In the first 4 years of its existence, Chris was involved in providing more than 100 educational programs to more than 2300 family caregivers, with a focus on families and adults living with dementia and other challenges related to aging and disability. In 2016, Chris was the impetus to starting a second non-profit organization, Lake County CaregiverNet, with the same mission of helping family caregivers find resources and support from others, as well as each other. Group members include the Alzheimer’s Association (Greater Illinois Chapter), Aurora Health, Catholic Charities (Senior Services), ElderCARE of Lake County, Erie Family Health, ExtraCare… for families living with Alzheimer’s, Faith in Action, Family Service of Lake County, Hanul Alliance, JourneyCare, Lake County Center for Independent Living, Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission, Lake County Veterans Foundation, Lessons in Care L3C, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Parkinson’s Foundation, Northeastern Illinois Area Agency on Aging, Prairie State Legal Services, Rosalind Franklin University, Shiloh Baptist Church, Zion Caring Community, and Waukegan Township Senior Services.

How does the nominee inspire others?
Chris is inspirational to everyone who meets her. Her warmth and sincere caring for others - and empathy with caregivers, having walked that path herself - is captivating. Her focus is always on collaboration: she believes that "it takes a village" - that just as family caregivers shouldn't bear the entire burden of caring for a loved one, neither can a single organization fulfill all the needs of a caregiver. And she is wonderful about sharing credit when there is a successful outcome. Serving caregivers has become her life's mission.

Please provide testimonials of family caregivers or former family caregivers who benefit from this support.

I worked with Chris Damon who helped train the Grayslake Fire and Police Departments to help make Grayslake the first Dementia Friendly Community in Illinois. Chris’ knowledge and passion in helping others through the journey of Dementia is truly helpful to not just the caregivers but also the person with Dementia themselves. ~ Mike Steiner, Certified Senior Advisor, Right at Home – Northern Lake County

Chris did a great job of conducting the Stess-busting meetings I attended, She was thorough and professional. The meetings were well organized —started and finished on time with all material covered. ~ Don Jordan, member of the Warren Township caregivers support group and caregiver for his wife, who has Alzheimer’s.




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