Each year the month of November — since being signed into law by President Bill Clinton 20 years ago — is celebrated as National Family Caregiver Month, an opportunity to honor those who care for others and to recognize their contributions and sacrifices.
For the last six years, the Family Caregiver Alliance of Rhode Island (a volunteer organization made up of caregivers and the agencies that provide them with services and supports), has organized a special event at the Rhode Island State House to recognize several outstanding caregivers who have been nominated by their families, parishes, health care workers and neighbors.
Kathy McKeon, diocesan supervisor of Catholic Social Services of Rhode Island, serves as co-chair of the Family Caregiver Alliance of R.I., a separate entity of its own, but affiliated and supported by United Way of R.I.
McKeon led the program at the State House, which was attended by several officials, including Director of the State Division of Elderly Affairs Charles Fogarty; along with Cristina Amedao and Courtney Smith, who represented the staff at United Way of R.I.; in addition to Linda A’Vant-Deishinni, of Catholic Social Services of R.I.’s Care Breaks Respite Care program, a diocesan program which provides needed breaks for caregivers.
This year, five 5 individuals and one organization were honored: Chuck Anastasia, primary caregiver for his wife VJ; Lourdes and Rafael Milan, caregivers for son and brother Jose Milan, an Army combat veteran whose service-related injuries changed his life; Carl Smiglielski, nominated by the Veterans Administration as the primary caregiver for Moshe Gara; Kim Grant, caregiver for her 10-year-old daughter Teagan, born prematurely with medical issues; and Nancy Ward, who cares for her daughter Abigail, a special needs foster child with significant health issues.