Christie Ryder, a caregiver who moved her family into her 94-year-old grandmother’s house to care for her after a fall, is the winner of the caregiver cruise give-away sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care®. The five-day cruise sets sail January 3, 2011, from Miami with nearly 50 other professional and family caregivers as part of the Caregiver Stress Management Cruise, sponsored by Openseas Travel on Celebrity Cruises.
The luck of the draw from among 1,700 caregiver entries gave Rider and her husband, Randy, the cruise she had always dreamed about. In addition to the trip, Rider will receive 40 hours of free care for her grandmother from the Lynchburg, Va., Home Instead Senior Care franchise office during the week that she is on the cruise.
“After hearing Christie’s story, no one could dispute that she is a deserving recipient of this special get-away,” said Betsy Head, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care franchise office in Lynchburg. “We are delighted to offer her this respite care break, which we know from experience that all family caregivers need.”
Christie, who was named after her paternal grandmother, Christine, became her grandmother’s primary caregiver after the older woman lost both of her adult sons – Christie’s father to cancer and his brother to an apparent massive heart attack. “That hit her hard,” Rider said. “She told me, ‘You’re not supposed to bury your children.’”
Even before she lost her two sons, her grandmother’s life hadn’t been easy, Rider explained. After her grandmother’s sister died in childbirth, she raised the baby girl as her own. In spite of her challenges, her grandma was always independent, continuing to live at home alone and even drive until a fall in February 2008, Rider noted.
Still, Rider had been providing increasing assistance for her grandmother, traveling 20 minutes from her home in Lynchburg, Va., every day to prepare breakfast and lunch, and put a meal in the crock pot for dinner. “When she fell they took Grandma to the hospital where she suffered a stroke and was bedfast for six weeks,” Rider said. “She wouldn’t walk because she was afraid she would fall after being in bed so long. So she spent a couple of weeks in a nursing home for rehabilitation, but she didn’t do well and wouldn’t eat. When they started talking about putting in a feeding tube, that’s when we decided to move in with her back at her own home.”
The Riders continue to maintain their residence in Lynchburg, where their oldest daughter, Tiffany Rider-Moore, and her husband live. Sixteen-year-old son Robert-Keith has moved with Christie and her husband to help care for Grandma in her old farmhouse, which has no air conditioning and is heated only by a wood-burning stove.
“We do everything for her including feeding and bathing, but her mind is really clear,” Rider said. “I’m just glad I could do this for her; it’s actually a blessing. I hope to keep Grandma at home until she passes. I think my whole family will learn something from it,” noted Rider, who said her son now wants to become a doctor as a result of his hand in helping care for his great-grandmother. Older daughter, Tiffany, a paramedic, often stops by as well to assist. Daughter Chelsey, who now resides in an apartment and works as a dental hygienist and cosmetologist while taking medical classes, also lived with the family in Grandma’s home for a time to assist with her care.
Still, the challenges are great, said the working mother and caregiver, who has driven a school bus for 10 years. “I love the beach and now that I’m here I can’t go. I can’t even run to the grocery store if someone isn’t here,” Rider said.
That’s why daughter Tiffany nominated her mother for the caregiver cruise trip. “She’s the type of person who doesn’t take time for herself and puts herself last. We always did vacations every summer and the last couple of years she was not able to go or her time away was cut short. I nominated her so that she could have a vacation of her own. I was very surprised when she won. It’s awesome. She’s never been on a cruise and this never would have happened otherwise,” said Rider-Moore.
Rider and her husband will be traveling with 50 other caregivers on the Fearless Caregiver Cruise, which features respite, relaxation, entertainment, fun and educational support for family and professional caregivers, according to T. Patrick Toal, founder of Openseas Travel. “Cruising is worry-free travel because almost everything is included in the travel package. So the caregiver can spend more time focused on relaxing and enjoying all the amenities a large cruise ship has to offer with the added security of being part of a smaller, organized group,” he said. Toal said there are also many benefits of being with other caregivers who understand the same stresses and challenges that caregivers encounter in their lives.
Two caregiver cruises are planned for 2011. Gary Edward Barg, author of "The Fearless Caregiver" and Editor-in-Chief of caregiver.com and "Today’s Caregiver" magazine will lead the Fearless Caregiver workshops in January. In May 2011, Dr. Amy D’Aprix, successful radio personality and author of "From Surviving to Thriving," will cruise along with the caregivers to Alaska. For more information about Caregiver Stress Management Cruises, visit caregivercruises.com. For additional information about Home Instead Senior Care, visit homeinstead.com.