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Caregivers honored for their commitment

East Longmeadow resident Albert Guidette helps care for his wife, Loretta. They were honored by Ava Wills. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

LONGMEADOW Caregivers are often credited with helping to maintain a person's quality of life. The difference between entering a care facility and remaining in your own home can be crucial to a patient's well-being. November is Home Care and Hospice Month and last week Jewish Geriatric Services (JGS) honored three local caregivers for their dedication.

As a part of JGS' Spectrum Home Health and Hospice Care program, three hard-workers received a surprise when they answered a knock to their front doors.

"They were pretty surprised," Mary Jenewin-Caplin, director of marketing and public relations, said. "These are not folks that would expect that. They were very modest about what they have accomplished. We did a prize patrol game. We went with a bouquet of flowers, balloons and a gift certificate. It's a small token to say that we applaud and appreciate what you've done."

Jenewin-Caplin said that the Greater Springfield Senior Services has a caregiver of the year contest and when JGS staff were talking about those family members and their dedication, "we realized that they may or may not be selected. "We really wanted to honor them. Our staff that goes into the home to provide the care were impressed by their dedication. Families are a part of the homecare team," she said.

Lee Grayboff, one of three recipients which also included Albert Guidette, modestly said the care she provided to her husband was something many people would do.

Grayboff and her husband, Howard, met in college.

"He was just a wonderful guy. It was a love affair for 56 years. We were never apart and he was a wonderful husband and father," she shared.

Grayboff said Howard came down with Multiple Sclerosis in the late 1980s, even though he had been living with the symptoms for many years. He passed away last December.

"I just wanted to always keep him home. He was the most wonderful patient," she explained. "It was hands on for me. It was 24/7. I was there and he never had to worry about anything. I was able to do certain medical things for him. That made me feel really good."

Of MS she said, "It's a horrible disease. In the end it was very debilitating. I just wanted him to have the dignity that he deserved. I couldn't have done it without the nurse I had for five years from Spectrum. If I didn't have Ava [Wills] to say 'You can do it' ... If you really love somebody you'll do everything you can for them. I never thought I was doing anything special."

Imagine her surprise when she opened her front door to find the JGS staff and Wills, the person who nominated her.

"I was like in a stupor. When they rang the bell with the balloons it was like Ed McMahon had come to my house," she joked. "I was stunned."

Jenewin-Caplin said at the end of the day the service people such as Grayboff and Gaudette provide is very significant.

"The purpose of this month is to spotlight a tremendously important community service that isn't particularly glamourous," Jenewin-Caplin added. "It's a privilege to be able to go into the homes of families and care for them and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for that."

Grayboff, a resident of Springfield, said deciding whether or not to keep your loved ones home is a tough decision. She encourages people to go for it "if you have the opportunity to bring a person home and you feel you can cope with it."

Grayboff now works as a patient advocate at Baystate Medical Center on the same floor where Howard had been a patient in the past.