On Monday night, the Kingston region’s Vicky Willis was one of four caregivers across Ontario who received the Heart of Home Care Award from VHA Home HealthCare (VHA).
Vicky and her husband Jeff had just settled in to their waterside dream in Gananoque – just east of Kingston – in 2010 when, at age 47, Jeff was diagnosed with a severely degenerative form of dementia.
“I was devastated,” Vicky says. “At first, I didn’t believe the diagnosis. I thought it was just stress. But then, his behaviour started to really change.”
With a severely degenerative form of dementia, Jeff wanders about the house, hardly stopping, even for meals. He would often repeat the same words or phrases over again, unable to participate in conversations. “Seeing this bright, intelligent man reduced to someone who can’t communicate well… his vibrant personality slowed down…it’s hard to see,” Vicky says.
Shortly after that, Vicky took it upon herself to become his primary caregiver and oversee his day-to-day well-being, leaving a toll on her professional and social life.
The 9th Annual Heart of Home Care Awards ceremony held this week in Toronto recognizes the extraordinary efforts of a friend or family member living in Ontario 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.
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Through the Heart of Home Care Award, VHA – a provincial non-profit organization and home care provider – they hope that these incredible stories will draw attention to the need for more service, support and money for home health care.
The organization describes these winners as not just amazing because they essentially gave up a major part of their own life to care for their loved ones, but also for being incredibly optimistic people despite the numerous hurdles they have faced through those times.
“This year’s winners truly embody the dedication, strength, compassion and positivity of caregivers,” notes Carol Annett, President and CEO of VHA. “The job of a caregiver is a demanding one with lots of challenges and often isn’t acknowledged by the outside world. Caregivers really are the backbone of home care and the health care system. This is really VHA’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to these extraordinary caregivers, shining a spotlight on them and bringing attention to the need for caregiver support and relief.”
The organization has also expressed its thanks for sponsorship from Teak Printing Services, PACE Consulting, Flashframe Digital Media, and Standard Life.
See Vicky Willis’ story in the video embedded below or on Youtube.