When Robert Reeves and his wife, Diane, looked into the eyes of Mr. Reeves' parents three years ago, it broke their hearts.
The elderly couple had just moved into the nursing home from an assisted living facility, stripping them of most of their freedom.
Mr. Reeves moved his parents, Bill and Phyllis, into his West Toledo home, and earlier this month he was honored by the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio for his personal sacrifice.
Mr. Reeves and other caregivers were honored during a First Lady's Tea sponsored by Toledo First Lady Cynthia Ford. Mrs. Ford said she hopes the tea will bring needed awareness to the Area Office on Aging's Caregiver Support Program and service caregivers provide.
It was an easy decision, Mr. Reeves said, to take his parents in. He stays full-time with his father, who is now 92, while is wife works. Mr. Reeves' mother died in November, 2002.
"I think it was the best decision I could have made," Mr. Reeves said. "My wife and I really work together well in handling problems.
I think there are a lot of preconceived notions about taking care of your parents. We just handled things as they came along."
Other caregivers honored were Cathryn Coffey, who is taking care of her mother, Dorothy Coffey; Pearlena Holston and Pearl Hunter, who have been caring for their husbands. The program also honored grandparents who are taking care of their grandchildren.
Honorees included Lucy Williams, who is caring for her 7-year-old granddaughter, and Ann Kresber, who has cared for her 11-year-old grandson since birth.
Pauline King, director of the Caregiver Support Program, said the program has been a full-fledged program of the Office of Aging the last two years.
She said the program provides information, assistance, education and training, respite services, and supplemental services to those taking care of parents or grandparents taking care of grandchildren.
"Caregivers have to deal with a lot of emotional issues," Ms. King said. "The biggest challenge is the role change and being objective. Another is the need for rest or a break from caring for their loved ones.
"The average age for our caregivers is 46, so they are dealing with their own children and spouse and the work force. They used to see their parents as being so vibrant and now they have to take care
She said caregivers slowly learn to make decisions in the best interest of their parents, even if it goes against the wishes of them. Ms. King said, for example, it may be easier for the caregiver to shop for his or her elderly parents alone instead of giving in to the parent wanting to coming along and possibly needing extra assistance.
"If your parent moves in with you, then you have a change in family dynamics," Ms. King said. "We want to show that these events should be not always be stressful, but pleasurable. There are rewards to caring for your parents and playing a supportive role."
Mrs. Ford said caregivers make a tremendous sacrifice for love ones and deserve some kind of attention for their efforts.
"People who do this aren't looking for recognition," Mrs. Ford said. "They do this because they love the person they're caring for."
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