Invisible Army: Caregivers on the Front Lines

Max Schulte/WXXI News

Pulling a pill organizer box from a kitchen drawer in her Penfield home, Ginger Henrichs removed the contents from the Monday compartment and broke them into tiny pieces with a pill crusher. 

Henrichs emptied the pills -- now almost as fine as dust -- into a carton of pudding and walked over to her husband, who is sitting in a wheelchair. 

“Hey, Mike, can I give you some pudding?” Henrichs asked. 

"Sure,” he replied. 

Max Schulte/WXXI News

Kathie Gansemer concentrates on her breath first.

Slow, steady breaths.

Then, perhaps, she recites an inspirational quote or a poem to set the mood. One of her favorites is from the 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi. It encourages the reader to welcome even the most disturbing thoughts and emotions as a potential means to clear the way for an unexpected delight.

Then, focus.

'Granny flats' could be answer for many family caregivers

Feb 26, 2021

A year ago, Vorng Thep’s parents lived in an apartment they couldn’t afford, in an area at least 15 minutes from their closest adult child.

As a couple in their 80s, they increasingly needed more care when it came to cooking, cleaning and transportation to appointments. Apartments like theirs in San Jose, California, cost between $1,800 and $3,000 a month, and leasing at an assisted living facility or buying a small home closer to their children was even more expensive. 

Are 'villages' the future of elder care?

Feb 25, 2021
Courtesy of WHEC-TV News 10NBC

The first thing you notice when you meet Tim O’Neill is that his hazel eyes smile, forming warm half-moons just above the disposable mask the pandemic necessitates.

O’Neill is a retired superintendent of Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES, and he believes his volunteer work is not unlike the job that once paid his mortgage. Both allow him to touch lives in both small and extraordinarily meaningful ways.

How a program to support Latino caregivers may have discovered a new wave of patients

Feb 24, 2021
John L. Alexander

Karol Suárez, 41, knows how hard it can be for some people to get the mental-health care they need. Sometimes it even requires family members to lie to their loved ones.

In 2019, Suárez was at a mental health conference to talk about her work as a community health worker -- or health promoter -- for the Chicago-based Latino Alzheimer's and Memory Disorders Alliance (LAMDA), which supports Latinos with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

A new media initiative aims to shed light on caregivers for older adults and investigate potential solutions to their challenges. WXXI and nine other media outlets in western New York are tackling the issue as part of a journalism collaborative supported by the Solutions Journalism Network.  

WBFO/Southern Administrative Services

The Green House Project, a national network of small nursing homes, have received plenty of attention for their low rates of COVID-19 during the pandemic. A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study recently called it a “promising model” for the reinvention of nursing homes in a post-pandemic world.

But just how replicable is it? Providers and advocates say there’s still plenty of financial hurdles to cross before more nursing homes look like Green House homes. 

Beth Adams / WXXI News

(This is the first in a two-part series examining the Green House Project as a potential solution to the long-term care crisis. A second part, focused on whether the model is financially replicable, is available here.)

Like anyone with a parent in a nursing home, the pandemic hasn’t been easy for Mare Millow.