OMAHA, Neb., Oct. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Melissa Vaughan, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who retired early to provide constant care for her mother who has Alzheimer's disease, is the winner of the Caregiver Cruise Giveaway Contest sponsored by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network.
The six-day, five-night cruise – with stops in Labadee, Haiti, and Falmouth, Jamaica – sets sail Feb. 25, 2013, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with about 100 professional and family caregivers. The trip is being co-sponsored by Home Instead and CaregiverCruises.com on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.
In an unusual twist of circumstance, Melissa's mother Barbara Vaughan found out about the free cruise and, with the assistance of a home-health worker, nominated her daughter. The nomination went on to win the contest by popular vote from among 1,700 other entries.
Barbara, who chronicles her Alzheimer's journey on her Facebook page, wrote that Melissa cares for her "on days when she cannot care for herself. My daughter deserves this cruise – she has not been away in four years."
In addition to the much-needed getaway, the family will receive 40 hours of free respite care for Barbara arranged by the Home Instead Senior Care network and the Evansville, Ind., Home Instead Senior Care franchise office.
Ben Klipsch, owner of the Evansville office, said stressed family caregivers are a common problem. "Many times we see sons and daughters taking care of loved ones and family members. As in Melissa's case, it can be a 24-7 job. Home Instead Senior Care offers a home care alternative that provides family members relief from the daily stress of directly caring for their loved one."
Melissa, who is largely confined to home with her mom, retired from her business career six years ago as a result of her own health problems and the growing needs of her mother. Barbara, who has lived with her daughter and Melissa's longtime partner Mike for the past 20 years, has come to count on her constant support. "She takes such good care of me," Barbara said during an interview.
The Newburgh, Ind., adult daughter is caring by example. She watched Barbara care for her own mother who had Alzheimer's disease. So when Barbara asked her daughter for help, she answered the call, with the support of Mike. "He is the real hero in all of this," Melissa added.
Melissa provides both physical and mental support for her mother and, because her mom's needs are constant, has even slept in the same bed with her for the past three years. Until recently when her mother's mobility problems made activity more difficult, she even helped Barbara fulfill her volunteer passions of visiting other seniors in nursing homes and providing food to families of sick children at the Ronald McDonald house.
Melissa said she is most looking forward to a good night's sleep on the cruise and the opportunity to de-stress and relax.
"Mom and I have always been close. And I've learned more about her in the past four years of our nights together talking than I ever knew. But it's also the hardest thing I've had to do in my life. I'm not trying to say I'm wonderful, but I don't know how people manage. I just don't know how you can be a caregiver and not have your heart ripped out every day. There are nights when Mom asks, 'When is Missy coming home? I miss her.' Ever since I've been a little girl, her eyes would light up when I came into a room. But when she's having an Alzheimer's day, they just don't. And that is heartbreaking."
SOURCE Home Instead Senior Care