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CAREGiver of the Year 2017 - Glen

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‘A capital fellow’ is a saying you don’t hear much anymore.  One of our uncles used this term toGlen-Balzersm.jpg describe a gentleman who was highly respected, so when Glen's employment reference called Glen a capital fellow, we took note.

After completing a degree in agriculture, Glen was involved in sales and marketing, teaching English as a second language in Taiwan and then rural development work in Bangladesh.  Glen returned home to work in the oil and gas industry for the balance of his career.  In his application to Home Instead, Glen wrote, ‘I reached a stage where I wanted to work at something that would be rewarding and of service to others.’  His letter described knowing people with disabilities and the problems they encountered and ways he creatively offered solutions.  His goal was to alleviate seniors' suffering to improve the quality of their life.  We hired him as a Home Instead CAREGiver!

Glen’s way, with all of his clients, is deeply rooted in respect.  To this he adds a constant interest in assessing people’s needs and providing solutions.  A client who recently lost his driver’s license due to dementia was delighted to ride Glen’s tandem bicycle.  Another client who struggled with slow progress in physiotherapy after his stroke is now improving using the pool with Glen.  Glen advocates for his clients.  When care home staff do not arrive in a timely manner to attend to his client’s needs, he diplomatically gets results.  If Glen can envision an improvement for his client’s daily living, he goes to work for his client.

Glen is in high demand with many clients but husband and wife, Brian and Donna, have depended upon Glen to help manage their ordeal with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  Brian and Donna are educators; Donna was a teacher and then a principal for her entire career while Brian went on to complete doctoral studies in education, then teach and research at the University.  They didn't have children - they were devoted to their careers and each other.  They looked forward to retirement together but in his late 60s, Brian's diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease was devastating. 

Donna was determined to care for Brian at home and although they lived in the same house, the unstoppable disease quickly deprived Brian and Donna of their close connection.  Donna shared with us how sweet Brian was to her; throughout their marriage Brian brought her flowers every 15th of the month to celebrate their first date.  They were an inseparable couple. And Brian’s illness brought on intense anxiety for Donna.  Getting away for a weekend rest was extremely difficult for her but Glen’s gentle and capable way with Brian helped put Donna at ease.

As Brian’s disease quickly progressed he needed more care to keep him in a routine and engaged in activities that stimulated and soothed him.  Most importantly, Donna needed help.  Along with other CAREGivers, Glen saw Brian a few times each week to give Donna time to manage their life and try to recharge. 

Glen and Brian enjoyed mini golf, visits to the University and drives to construction sites.  Like brothers, playing board games, watching sports and outings for hot chocolate were also favorite routines.  In addition, Glen would play piano for Brian and then get him to join in playing scales.  Brian was able to play with one finger, “Love me Tender” and they sang it together.  Glen once shared his method to encourage Brian:

“I try to build up Brian’s self-image.  He will say, ‘I can’t do that, or I’m not good at that’.   There’s a tribute to Brian recognizing his contribution to the city’s school system.  It’s a glowing commendation of Brian’s abilities and his dedication to education. It sits on the piano so from time to time I’ll read it to him and praise him for the contribution he made and how he is respected.”

When Brian was hospitalized for psychiatric stabilization, Glen intentionally sat and held his hand.  As Brian’s words came out nonsensically, Glen intuitively listened and responded respectfully, as he would to any University professor, making conversations flow between them.  Glen would also read to him and coax Brian to eat and drink.  These were intense times, which stretched on for months and Glen calmly offered constant soothing and stability for Brian and Donna.  Brian finally moved into a long term care home where Glen continues to provide care. 

Through the years as Donna has given herself to Brian’s care, she has paid a price.  During a visit with our client care coordinator, Rita, Donna raved about Glen’s role in Brian’s life.  Rita’s notes highlight Glen’s attention to his client and his wife’s deepest needs. 

“His ability to engage Brian… the respect he gives him… he’s amazing… and the Anniversary Card!”  She insisted on showing me where it was proudly displayed on their mantle. 

She explained that for their 43rd anniversary, Glen had taken Brian to purchase a card.  She showed me the card and in Glen’s handwriting I read words he wrote about how deep their relationship is, what it means to each of them, the celebration of one another’s love, and how they both understand the importance of this.

Donna had tears flowing, just watching me read it. Glen’s efforts to reconnect Brian with her clearly meant a great deal to her.  It was not just the card, but that another human being understood her incredible relationship with her husband, whom she still adored as if they were newlyweds.  I felt that Glen’s words gave her hope and courage to remember why she had fought so hard to give Brian the best care.  This was probably a moment I will never forget. It touched me deeply, hearing the impact our CAREGiver has had on that family.  

For his sensitivity to the needs of others, his skill and efforts to advocate and elevate his client’s daily living, we nominate our capital fellow, Glen Balzer, for the Mary Steibel CAREGiver of the Year award. 


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