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Honored to care

An Adult Family Caregiver shares a story of love and enrichment

An inspirational caregiving relationship

May 2015 AFC Kerry  Gail photoKerry (right) loves caring for her aunt, Gail (left), with support from the Adult Family Care (AFC) program at LifePath. If she ever needs assistance, AFC nurses and social workers are a phone call away.

Kerry Stone of Warwick is a mother of three and, after 25 years of teaching art to children, says Kerry, “I’ve been devoting my life to doing my own art.”

For several years now, Kerry has found artistic inspiration from Gail Spooner, Kerry’s 66-year-old-aunt, who has Down syndrome and with whom Kerry shares her home. Kerry and Gail both love creating art, and both have inspired each other with their art.

“Her mother was my favorite grandmother,” says Kerry. They had weekly dinners at her house, and Kerry grew up with Gail. “I love her. I feel very honored to be taking care of her.” Kerry thinks her grandmother would be proud of her for taking care of Gail.

Kerry Stone is a caregiver with LifePath's Adult Family Care (AFC) program. Kerry’s brother and his wife took care of Gail in their New Salem home for eleven years. When their children grew up, they were ready to move on with their lives. They asked Kerry to become Gail’s new caregiver. Kerry connected with LifePath and began taking care of Gail.

“I’ve grown from the experience. I feel like I’m more in tune with Gail – it took a little while. At first I was a little worried that I was giving up my freedom, but she’s really fit in well to our family.”

“It’s been a good match for my life because [as an artist] I’m home-based.” Kerry sees value in her preference for the home life: she likes to create a nice home, to cook and bake. She has a nice garden and involves Gail with gardening, encourages her to walk down the road and see the horses.

A good experience for the whole family – and community

Kerry’s children, now 25, 22, and 14, grew up sharing their home with Gail. “They knew Gail forever, but to live with her and have time to interact and be with her was a good experience.”

Kerry’s daughter, the 22-year-old, is a senior at St. Michaels in Vermont. She studies education and had a student in her kindergarten class with Down syndrome. “She’s very tuned in.” She spent five months in Chile during a 2014 semester abroad, working with children with Down syndrome, ages 6-12, who are not allowed to attend regular schools; she helped teach art and dance. The boys are also more sensitive people because of living with someone with Down syndrome.

“Gail has really enriched my community of Warwick,” says Kerry, who adds that Gail touches the lives of those she meets and educates children through exposure to someone with Down syndrome and by simply getting to know her.

The close family and community relationships have meant the world to Gail, too. “She continually tells us she’s very grateful. She loves being here, she loves being a part of the family. I think she knows she’s very lucky” not to be living in an institution, says Kerry. “She’s always leaving me notes [of appreciation]. She’s a sweetheart.”

Adult Family Care program provides meaningful support

Kerry has met inspiring people through the AFC program, other caregivers who have, she says, “enriched my life very much.”

Kerry says it’s been incredible to connect with each person who has filled the role of nurse or social worker in the AFC program. “For all the people that I’ve met over the years, each one really genuinely cares about Gail and her care.” For them, it’s not just a job, says Kerry. Gail touches their lives.

“I really love the support that I get from AFC,” says Kerry. “I think it’s a fantastic program. In any situation, I feel like I have this support team that’s there for me anytime.” Home visits, nurses, and social workers in the AFC program give Kerry confidence.

Kerry encourages others to become AFC caregivers. “There’s definitely a need.” Caregivers can include a participant’s family member (excluding spouse, parent of a minor, or legal guardian) or an unrelated individual wanting to enhance the life of a participant by caring for them in their home. Participants are people, age 16 and older, who cannot live alone safely because of medical, physical, cognitive, or mental health challenges.

It’s really nice to be able to take care of someone in your own home – especially a family member, says Kerry, and it’s service work – helping people have a rich life at home, getting them involved in your life and community. It’s a rewarding role for the families and individuals who open their homes to become AFC caregivers.

In addition to ongoing caregiver support and training, including a monthly visit by a social worker and/or nurse, AFC caregivers receive a tax-exempt monthly stipend.

Anyone who is interested in becoming an AFC caregiver should call LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 or send an email.

Read more on the AFC program page.