Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Member Brenda Antone received the Caregiver of the Year Award from the American Indian Council on Aging (AICOA) during its recent conference, which was held at the Wild Horse Pass Casino. Antone has been taking care of her sister Janet for the last five years as a caregiver, making sure her sister, who has been very ill, is being cared for properly.
“She is my older sister, and these past few years her health has been declining. I stayed by her side this whole time, tending to her, making sure she is OK. We recently moved from Peoria to Lonely Cactus to be closer to family, which is what Janet wanted, as well as myself,” said Antone.
Janet is battling cirrhosis, and as the condition had been worsening she became unable to stand and was mostly bedridden. Antone also received assistance from family to help her move and lift her sister. “Now she is getting stronger and is able to stand and walk a little bit,” said Antone.
At one time her sister required 24-hour care, and Antone’s daughter and granddaughter also took on some of the responsibility.
“It’s hard at times, because she has a lot of aches and pains but won’t take medicine because she knows she has a bad liver and she wants to live long,” said Antone. “Janet wants to be able to come back to the Senior Center and be involved again; that’s what she likes. We like being involved in the Community and attending events.”
Jackie Edwards, who works in the Support Services Program of the Senior Center Department, nominated Antone for the AICOA caregiving award.
“I recommended her for this award. She never asked for anything; she is very humble and is always grateful for every day, and I think she is just a great role model for other caregivers because of the way she carries herself and what she does for her sister,” said Edwards. “[I admire her] mentality of not even thinking about it and just doing it, and also having the wisdom of taking care of herself and listening to her body when it is telling her to slow down. I admire Brenda and am very lucky to know her, and I was so happy when I heard she got the award.”
Antone believes what she is doing for her sister is only normal. “I thought, ‘Well, if I can do it, then I will. A lot of how I am is because I am Christian and I believe everyone should know Jesus Christ. We have the [caregiving award] plaque in Janet’s room, and she always tells me I deserve that award. She was very happy for me. But it’s just about caring for family.”
Antone had some advice for future and current caregivers: “Make sure you make time for yourself, too. It’s easy to continue to [be a caregiver] and forget about your own needs Otherwise you both could end up in the hospital.
“I want to thank my son, daughter, granddaughter, and the staff here at Senior Services; they have [been] great resources for us.”