Remarkable Caregivers Treated to “Day Out” at 11th Annual Heart of Home Care Awards
VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) honoured three caregiving heroes – Suzanne Retter of Oshawa, Fiona Conely of Scarborough and Memoona Ismail of Toronto – who won this year’s Heart of Home Care Award at the not-for-profit’s annual event, held yesterday in Toronto. The award recognizes the extraordinary efforts of a friend or family member who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide a loved one who is disabled, elderly, or chronically ill, with the support needed to live at home with more independence.
“Every year I’m astounded by these stories and the lengths people will go to in helping their loved ones to remain at home,” notes President and CEO of VHA, Carol Annett. Though their stories are unique, the compassion, patience and drive are recurring themes in all the nominations. “We know that caregiving is an all-consuming job with lots of challenges. And while there is greater attention on caregiver issues these days, their role remains largely under-supported even though they are truly the heart and soul of the health care system.” She adds that the event – which this year included a rare lunch out for the nominees and winners and a special acoustic performance by singer Jully Black – is VHA’s small way to say “thank you.” “By telling these incredible stories, we hope to draw greater attention to caregiver issues, and the need for more respite and supports,” says Annett.
Video Link: http://bit.ly/2016HeartVideos
Suzanne Retter – Winner, Caregiver to an Adult
Suzanne Retter, a real estate agent in Oshawa, met Bert online in the “seeking friendship only” listings. Their shared interest in photography and Bert’s “magnetic personality” helped them bond instantly. Suzanne took Bert – originally from Tobago – on several road trips to explore and photograph the vast, beautiful landscapes of Ontario. But sadly after six years of friendship, Bert was diagnosed with stage four cancer. With limited finances, and no family in Canada, Suzanne didn’t hesitate: she offered Bert a room in her home, put her career on hold and spent several months helping Bert live out his last days as comfortably and happily as possible. Suzanne simply felt “it was the human thing to do,” but VHA nurse and nominator Jill Lindo felt differently. “Suzanne is truly an amazing woman,” Lindo says.
Fiona Conely – Winner, Caregiver to a Child (over 18)
When her son Jason was only four months old, Fiona learned that he had cerebral palsy. Then her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Fiona lost a major support. She was also left with the incredibly difficult task of caring for a son with a disability and being there for her mother, whose health and mental faculties were rapidly declining. But despite the odds as a young, single mother with limited education, Fiona has persevered. She returned to school to complete her high school diploma, overcame depression and took training courses that helped her to land a job at a charitable clothing bank that supports people with addiction issues. “She is the living embodiment of service to others which I think most of us are missing in our life today,” says friend and nominator, Madelynn Cooper. 20 years on, Fiona has managed to create a happy, hopeful life for both herself and for Jason.
Memoona (Mona) Ismail – Winner, Caregiver to an Adult
After learning her father-in-law Moosa – a former soccer player originally from South Africa – had Alzheimer’s disease, Mona put her own catering career on hold to become a full-time caregiver. “Because of my culture and my faith, it’s my honour to care for my elders,” Mona says. Despite Moosa’s failing faculties, the care Mona provided strengthened their bond. She played music and kept Moosa’s brain stimulated with puzzles and crosswords and took on the role of “nurse” at home. At the hospital she was a strong advocate for her father-in-law with medical staff who were sometimes dismissive. Despite the challenges of caregiving Mona is truly upbeat, ready to take on any challenge. “I have a mother-in-law who has now started with early dementia, so that’s where I’m going to get all my experience (from Moosa) now to pass on to her,” says Mona. “She’s the best,” notes Fatima Ismael, Mona’s mother-in-law with a smile.
The Heart of Home Care Award event would not be possible without our Presenting Sponsors: PACE Consulting, Teak Printing and Telus; Entertainment Sponsor BDO Canada; and Community Sponsors Flashframe Digital Media and Manulife.
About VHA Home HealthCare
VHA Home HealthCare – a not-for-profit, charity – has inspired Ontarians to create possibilities for more independence since 1925. VHA’s professional team of over 2,200 caring, compassionate people support clients and their families throughout Ontario and is proudly:
- Accredited with Exemplary Standing by Accreditation Canada.
- An RNAO Best Practice Spotlight Organization.
- A founding member agency of United Way Toronto and York Region.
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VHA Home HealthCare
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