2021 Media News

Press Release: Unpaid caregivers playing key role in health care system celebrated at Heart of Home Care Awards on National Caregiver Day

#
By VHA
VHA's 2021 Heart of Home Care winners

Unpaid caregivers playing key role in health care system celebrated at Heart of Home Care Awards on National Caregiver Day

TORONTO, ONTARIO, April 6, 2021 – Unpaid caregivers, the family and friends caring for people at home, provide critical support for those living with chronic illness and disability. These caregivers make a significant contribution to health care in Ontario and are generally unrecognized and have limited supports. The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging and isolating for them.

For over 15 years, VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) has been celebrating the efforts of unpaid caregivers with the Heart of Home Care Awards. On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, National Caregiver Day in Canada, this year’s winners were announced at a special virtual event that also provided helpful resources and tools for unpaid caregivers.

“The Heart of Home Care awards and this event are one small way we can show our support for unpaid caregivers and recognize their incredible resilience and care,” said Kathryn Nichol, President and CEO at VHA Home HealthCare. “Their role in our health care system is critical and we can never take it for granted.”

This year’s Heart of Home Care Award winners are:

Loretta Whiteman is the winner in the Caring and Giving Back award category, given to a caregiver who makes a valuable contribution in their community in addition to be an amazing support for their loved one. Loretta moved in with her parents in 2015 to care for her father when he got sick and for her mother who had a stroke and was bedridden. Loretta’s father passed away in 2018 and Loretta promised him she would remain with her mother rather than putting her into a long-term care home. Loretta also gives back to her community by volunteering at the family’s church, fundraising for different causes including the local library and participates on the community Santa Clause parade committee. She also puts care packages of personal care products together for homeless people in the community. “Loretta is one of the most amazing women I have ever met,” says Hayley Read, a family friend who nominated Loretta for this award. “She will give you the shirt off her back and pretty much do anything for anybody if they need help.”

Tyler Abraham won in the Young Caregiver award category, for those 25 years and under who provide extraordinary care. Tyler lives in Toronto with his disabled mother Darlene who lives with physical disabilities and uses a wheelchair. Tyler helps Darlene with buying groceries, running errands and assists her around their home and with daily activities such as getting dressed. Tyler himself was born with a heart defect and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 11. “Even though he is dealing with his own challenges, I’m so thankful that I’m able to stay at home with his help,” says Tyler’s mother Darlene Abraham. “I want him to know how thankful I am and how proud I am of him. I’d be lost without him.”

The winner in the Caring with Compassion award category this year is Kathy Kohls, 76, who cares for her 46-year-old daughter Sandra full-time at their home in Chelmsford, Ontario, just outside Sudbury. Sandra was born with severe mental and physical disabilities, is non-verbal, and is dependent upon Kathy for all the necessities of life. “She does everything. My mom is so humble about everything she does”, says Lorna Newland, one of Kathy’s four other children. Kathy herself suffers from back issues from lifting and transferring Sandra but never complains, happily singing to Sandra every night and tending to her emotional as well as her physical needs. “Sandra has taught us about life. We are grateful for all we have,” Kathy shared. Lorna confirms the whole family is grateful for Sandra and for their mother. “I have always looked to my mom and wanted to be like her,” she added.

The Heart of Home Care event featured videos showcasing the winners’ stories and included helpful sessions including a presentation of the Heart in Mind activation therapy toolkit, a free guide to engaging loved ones with dementia with feelings-based activities; a workshop from the Regional Geriatric Program of Toronto on the Stretch, Lift or Tap program developed for older adults living with mobility restrictions; and a mindfulness session to address caregiver burnout.

For further information on the Heart of Home Care awards, this year’s winners or the event programming, or to speak with one of the award winners or participants, please contact:

Tracey Turriff
Senior Communications & PR Manager
tturriff@vha.ca or 416-565-8483