Caregiver Support an Unexpected Reward for One Family

Learn how caregiver support for a family in need can help change lives.

Caregiver support at FamilyMeans

Once a week, Marleen and Jeff have the chance for a date night or simply time to be alone. Whether they choose a movie, dinner out or time to run errands they know this time is theirs.

During this time, a respite volunteer from FamilyMeans' Caregvier Support Program named Sherrie can be found at their home. Sherrie spends time with Machaela, Jeff, and Marleen’s 4-year-old daughter who was born premature at just 24 weeks and weighing only 12 ounces. Machaela is learning to live life fully despite a number of challenges.

Machaela endured three eye surgeries in each eye as an infant and was at high risk for a compromised immune system. Physically, her right side is weaker than her left, and her eye surgeries have resulted in extreme near-sightedness and issues with depth perception. Throughout her short life, Machaela has participated in a number of therapies: physical, occupational, feeding, and speech.

Machaela was only 1 year old when Sherrie first met the family and, given Machaela’s tenuous start to life, it took some time for the relationship to evolve. The Caregiver Support staff at FamilyMeans was instrumental in helping find the right match, ultimately suggesting Sherrie meet Jeff, Marleen and Machaela.

“At first it was a bit scary to allow a stranger into our home and have to trust someone new with our very young and fragile daughter,” said Marleen, who now considers Sherrie an extension of their family. “We needed to observe Sherrie with Machaela. We needed to learn to trust someone else to care enough for and about her. It was a process but it turned out to be well worth the risk. The reward – on so many levels – has been so great.”

Today, at age 4, Machaela yells with excitement when she knows she’ll be spending time with Sherrie. Among Machaela’s favorite activities are playing kitchen, creating with Play-Doh, or reading books. Enjoying these activities with Sherrie is an added bonus.

And for Marleen and Jeff, they have peace of mind that their daughter is in good hands in Sherrie’s care and they have some specified time to themselves each week.

To learn more about the the Caregive Support program at FamilyMeans, visit our program page. Or, to learn how you can become a respite volunteer, contact us today.