APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Whether it’s sorting through the mail, or serving lunch – Cindy Thompson helps her 87-year-old father, Elmer, with the daily tasks of living. Says Cindy, “One of the important things is to make sure they can retain their dignity. The people I care for, I always ask their opinion and together we work out a solution.”
Cindy retired early to care for a number of family members – and along the way – helped to start a non-profit based in Appleton – called Family Caregivers Rock.
The organization helps support the health and wellness of family caregivers through community projects, events, wishes granted to family caregivers. Those wishes range from paid medical bills – to a girl’s day out. Family Caregivers Rock supports caregivers in 22 counties in Northeast Wisconsin and counting.
As the population ages in Wisconsin, more and more of us are acting as caregivers, offering unpaid care for family members, oftentimes while juggling other demands – such as jobs.
AARP Wisconsin estimates there are 580,000 unpaid family caregivers in Wisconsin, who provide an estimated $6.9 billion dollars worth of care. Sixty-percent of those caregivers have full or part-time jobs.
Says Cindy, “This need came up for the caregivers, and I thought I fit right in, being a caregiver myself. Many times, I hear from caregivers about their stories, and their journeys are just so much more stress than I have. I’m just thankful, and I guess with my blessings, I feel I need to help them as much as I can. It keeps me busy.”
As Board Chairperson for Family Caregivers Rock, Cindy does keep busy. Besides granting wishes, they’ve received grants to distribute their emergency key tags for caregivers. The tags are a red vinyl, house-shaped key tag. It says, ‘Attention, I have someone at home who needs to be checked on.’ Rescue crews and hospital personnel around the state have been informed about the keys. It’s hoped that their presence will help alert people that if a caregiver is hurt, or can’t communicate, the person they are caring for will get attention far more quickly than they might have without the emergency key tags.
Cindy also helped to publish a book of caregivers’ stories called ‘A Lonely Journey.’ It’s available as an Amazon Kindle book.
This highly acclaimed book is a collection of journeys, as shared by caregivers of loved ones with dementia, in their own words. This sharing is intended to support other caregivers as well as to help family, friends, co-workers, and employers understand the journey of a dementia caregiver.
Says Cindy, “There’s a lot of good uplifting information in there. Because the purpose is to uplift other caregivers – and to help family, friends, co-workers and your managers – to understand what a caregiver goes through on a daily basis.”
Whether it’s caring for family, or supporting other caregivers, Cindy Thompson sees it all as a labor of love. As she explains, “I don’t even look at it as work, I just enjoy it. I’m helping others, and the response from other caregivers has just been amazing.”
READ THE NOMINATION LETTER SUBMITTED ON CINDY’S BEHALF
“Cynthia Thompson is driven by her love of God and concern for others. When Cynthia sees a need, she gets involved.
September of 2017, when Cynthia was hearing fellow family caregivers wished they could find a book that would help them through their tough days, Cynthia reached out any means possible to get the word out that she was looking for submissions to create such a book.
May 2018, the book, “A Lonely Journey,” was published with 37 submissions from various family caregivers in Wisconsin written in their own words. The purpose was to help other family caregivers get through their tough days and to help family, friends, co-workers and employers understand the journey of a family caregiver. As stated in the introduction, the journey is lonely at first, but when you find others on your same journey, it’s not so lonely anymore.
November 2018, Cynthia had an idea to start a nonprofit that grant wishes to family caregivers as the words she would hear most often from family caregivers is “I wish….”
In February, that idea became a reality.
The Board consists of volunteer past and present family caregivers who know the challenges and rewards of being a family caregiver. Cynthia is the Board Chairperson and through her leadership the nonprofit has been instrumental in supporting the health and wellness of family caregivers in Northeast Wisconsin through community projects, events and granting wishes to family.
A current project is distributing red house shaped key tags that state, “Attention I have someone at home who needs to be checked on.” While running errands, a family caregiver may experience health issues and this key tag alerts first responders there is a loved one at home that needs to be checked on as well. The program is moving state-wide.
Community event involved hosting a Family Caregiver Appreciation Day treating family caregivers to a movie of their choice, popcorn and soda. This event was open to family caregivers in Northeast Wisconsin at Marcus Theatres in Green Bay, Appleton and Oshkosh the day of the event.
To fill a need in the New London and surrounding area, a new family support group will start in March 2020. In 2019, five wishes were granted: massage, hair treatment, bible, laptop, dental assistance and currently helping a family caregiver who has written an educational play about caring for his wife and wishes to see it performed live.
Cynthia has been a family caregiver since she was 17 for an elderly aunt, grandparents and currently caring for her husband and helping with five aging parents. Cynthia uses her endless energy to help others and is currently a Red Cross volunteers and also numerous other organizations in the past.
Cynthia enjoys supporting other caregivers on their journey as she feels she doesn’t have to look far to see someone who has a heavier burden than she does. I truly cannot think of a more selfless deserving person to nominate. Cynthia really is a remarkable woman!”
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