Unsung Heroes: Celebrating Caregivers
Story and photos by Anja Benjamin
Ability360 Home Care Services (formerly known as ABIL’s Personal Assistance Services, or PAS) has provided quality in-home care to seniors and people with disabilities for over 25 years. Currently, Ability360 employs over 2,235 personal care attendants throughout Maricopa, Gila/Pinal and Pima Counties. Our exceptional reputation in the community speaks for itself. Consumer-driven, Home Care provides peace of mind, individualized care by well-trained staff who are caring, honest and reliable while respecting the consumer’s self-determination and degree of independence. Our agency is currently the largest provider of in-home care in Arizona. The Home Care program has been an integral part of our agency since the mid 1980’s and has provided us with a personal and intimate connection to the disability community and the everyday issues that make it possible for our consumers to live in their own homes, remain independent, and participate in community life.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. Ability360 wishes to recognize all of our caregivers, both family and non-family. What better way to celebrate this important month than to spotlight the relationship between our care attendants and the consumers they assist? In this issue and the next, join us as we share stories of inspiration that illustrate the profound effect our personal care attendants and consumers can have on each other.
Maria & James
Maria has cared for James for approximately two years in the home that he shares with his beloved wife of 56 years, Anne. James suffered a stroke over 10 years ago, and as a result, is aphasic. Anne was one of two consumers who wrote letters, nominating Maria for HCS Caregiver of the Month for Maricopa County, a recognition that was bestowed upon Maria for the month of July. Maria was hired specifically to care for James while providing Anne help and respite. Anne exclaimed, “I marvel at her. She’s a fantastic lady.”
Maria cleans the home, cooks, launders, lifts, grocery shops and picks up prescriptions. Anne explains that Maria does what has to be done, anticipating the needs of both James and Anne and always with a smile on her face. Maria sits and visits with Jim, who looks forward to seeing her the three days per week that she is scheduled. Anne states that she feels very comfortable when Maria is present. She can lie down and rest while Maria is visiting and looking after James. Anne considers Maria “a blessing” and knows that she can call her if she or James needs anything, particularly considering that Maria lives close by.
Maria, one of 10 children, considers the services that she provides to be “fun and easy”.
Maria’s passion for helping others is evident. As we neared the end of our interview and photo session, Anne’s cornflower blue eyes were brimming with gratitude as she glanced over at Maria, “She’s beyond special,” she exclaimed.
“I love to do it.” She explained that her pay is not in the wage she collects, but in the smiles she receives from her consumers, whom she considers family. Maria is thankful to Ability360 for hiring her.
Monica & Carol
Monica was also a nominee for HCS Caregiver of the Month. Monica was chosen as the recipient for July for Pinal County. Dale, the husband of Monica’s current consumer, Carol, wrote a letter of sincere appreciation for everything that Monica does to assist and support Carol. Neither Carol nor Monica was aware that Dale wrote a letter to our agency. Dale is the pastor of a local church and operates a food bank and school. His schedule is considerably busy with community outreach.
In 1994, Carol survived a plane crash. Her back was broken in three places, her wrists were broken and she suffered 33 fractures to her ribs. In addition, she suffered a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in Carol losing her ability to remember short term and severely affected her ability to remember long term. Since June, Carol has undergone three separate back surgeries, bringing her total to 15.
Monica takes Carol to her medical appointments, bathes, feeds and dresses her. Monica cleans, launders and cooks for Carol. Monica is one of 13 children, raised by a single mother. She states that she never learned to cook, but Carol is teaching her! Carol has a treasure trove of recipes, and the ladies have a cooking session in which Carol will sit with Monica in the kitchen, guiding her through the recipe, providing tips and encouragement along the way. Monica states that she can now cook terrific meals for her own family and they love it!
Dale and Carol have a beloved Maltese, Max. During Carol’s most recent hospital stay, Dale was unable to leave and check in on Max. Monica was more than happy to do so.
“She’s a Godsend. She gives me reason to go on,” Carol matter-of-factly stated. “It’s difficult to find decent, tender-hearted individuals to work with seniors. I feel considerably blessed to have Monica. She’s like a daughter.”
A transplanted Southern belle, Anja Benjamin has lived in the Valley of the Sun for 5 years. Married to Dennis and mother to a 19 year-old cat, Jett, she loves Jimmy Fallon, Twizzlers and cheering on SEC teams. Anja has been the Executive Assistant at Ability360 for just over 5 years and is currently enrolled in a graduate program at Grand Canyon University.