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Caregiver Contest Grand Prize Winner: Gail S.

Stephanie Struyck Elgin
Author | Shield HealthCare
03/19/20  10:12 AM PST
Caregiver Contest 2019-2020

Congratulations to Grand Prize Winner Gail S. from Windthorst, Texas. Gail and her husband have been married 51 years and have been their son’s full-time caregiver for all 36 of his years. He has severe Cerebral Palsy, a seizure disorder and is nonverbal and confined to a wheelchair, but his comprehension is good. He is a happy, loving young man and his five siblings and their families are always there to help.

To enter this year’s 20th Annual Caregiver Story contest, click here!


Taking care of our son 24/7, we know we each need a degree of independence, social time and alone time. We share the daily ins and outs of caring for our son. We also each take time to take him on outings allowing the other person to have a little “me time.” And, we both know the value and importance of this arrangement.

Hints we try to live by for our balance:

  1. Give yourself a break, mentally and physically. Let go of your list of obligations and prioritize what really needs to be done. Don’t let a to-do list dominate your every thought. Put a smile in your voice and move on!
  2. Nurture the positive relationships in your life. Don’t overlook your spouse and your time together. Have those date nights and stay tuned to each other and communicate. Socialize outside of your caregiving bubble, and don’t let guilt rob you of your enjoyment. Our son needs a break from us at times, too.
  3. A lot of parents know the saying “Pick Your Battles.” So, if it’s not really that important one way or another, let the individual choose or let it slide. Turn the saying around to “Pick Your Pleasure.” Try to have good days and bad moments. Life is too short to have all bad days!
  4. Caregivers, as in our situation, must have a good rapport with doctors and medical professionals, realizing we are not solely responsible for all decisions made on our son’s behalf. We are a team and we need each other – creating another balance.
  5. Serving others in small ways is invaluable. A smile, a soft touch, eye contact, meaningful words, all make an individual feel worthy and included, whether that be the client, your spouse or family members. Let your hands and voice represent a heart of charity, diligence and peace. Be thankful!

We need to realize there will not always be a balance. There will be times of extreme physical needs or medical needs that take precedence, and we, as caregivers, take a back seat to our own needs. Hopefully, in recognizing the importance of our own mental, physical and spiritual health, we continue to strive for this common ground.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, in our little village, including our children and spouses, and our 12 grandchildren, we now total 26. And, it takes all of us. Because of the way our children and grandchildren have been raised, they display heartfelt compassion and empathy for other individuals faced with physical or emotional challenges. Yes, the road we are traveling has been difficult, but it is filled with love, caring and devotion. Seek joy!

“Different Roads” by Kathy Troccoli, highlights all the different avenues we travel in life.  Some chapters include:  The Sometimes Bumpy Road of Life, The Detour, The Long and Winding Road, Mountains and Valleys.  But, most of us are never prepared for The Road I Never Planned to Take.  No matter where this journey takes us, we are stronger for it and never alone.  So, we will continue to walk this different road.  We vow to be the hands and feet of our Lord, as we aspire to make a difference through love, acceptance and kindness of words and actions.

Whether you are a caregiver to a parent, spouse, individual, or a disabled child or adult, our challenging piece of advice is, do your best, be positive, lean on others, and ask for help when needed. Quoting Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I truly believe that we achieve balance when we meet our own needs as well as the needs of those who depend on us. This is balance at its best!

Winners were selected by a panel of independent judges: Margarita Bermudez, the Manager of Professional Training and Healthcare Services at Alzheimer’s Los Angeles; Amanda Hlynosky, RN, BSN, a critical care nurse at Cleveland Clinic; and Leigh Ellen Key, Executive Director for Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, South Texas and Louisiana/Mississippi Chapters. Click here to learn more.


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