What Our Clients Are Saying

Watch or read our featured success stories to hear what our clients have to say about their experiences with the Memory Care Navigator program, a program offered at no cost to clients thanks to the generosity of Sun Health Foundation donors.

Testimonials

Sandra Forsey

Shirley Frizell

Caregiving Help for Socorro

Socorro Cerda’s days begin early in the mornings and become a blur of responsibility as she cares for her 85-year-old father, diagnosed with both Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Meals, medications, doctor’s visits, personal care, activities to keep her father content – the to-do list is never ending. But Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator program helps ease the load.

The program extends Socorro’s support network and provides vital information about community programs and services for her father, Bulmaro Carranza. What’s more, both Socorro and Bulmaro are Spanish speaking, and the availability of a social service expert through the program has been particularly important.

“It’s very good, it’s a huge help,” Socorro said.

The Memory Care Navigator (MCN) program, helps patients, family members and caregivers navigate the emotional, psychological and physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The service is provided at no charge, and is funded through donations to Sun Health Foundation.

Socorro’s full-time caregiving journey began when her mother passed away and her father moved to Arizona from California to live with her family.

The father Socorro once knew had changed. Gone were his upbeat personality, easy going nature, and love of cooking. With the dual diagnoses, he was easily upset and angered. Following difficult hospitalizations, her father required more and more care.

A social worker’s referral during hospitalization to MCN was life changing for Socorro. She was encouraged to apply for a scholarship to cover the cost of adult day care, and now her father attends twice a week. The half-day breaks give Socorro time to herself, to catch up on things around the house or enjoy crocheting.

Through MCN, Socorro also received guidance on applying for state-funded services that include transportation, meals, personal care and more for her father. By utilizing these services, Socorro and her family will have more time to recharge and reconnect.

Socorro is grateful for the navigator program and those who have supported it through Sun Health Foundation.

“Thank you so much. It’s a great help,” she said. “Thank you for this support.”

Ken’s road map to caregiving

For years, Ken Barberi and Mary Lou Pelletier enjoyed a close friendship, keeping each other company and sharing favorite activities like taking walks.

When Mary Lou was diagnosed with dementia, Ken’s role in her life grew to include full-time caregiver. But he hasn’t been alone. Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator (MCN) program is by his side.

Navigator Marty Finley has offered a wealth of information about community resources and helped Ken develop an action plan so he can better care for Mary Lou. The information and education have given Ken peace of mind.

“It’s an enormous help. I don’t know how you would approach this without having an organization like Sun Health,” Ken said. “You know what to expect. You know what resources you can access. It’s not a big unknown anymore.”

The Memory Care Navigator program, offered at no charge, helps patients, family members and caregivers navigate the emotional, psychological and physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Since its inception in 2013, the program has helped more than 1,200 individuals.

The MCN program is funded through donations to Sun Health Foundation, which supports a variety of community wellness programs.

Ken, a retired Foreign Service Officer, and Mary Lou live in the same house and are navigating the dementia journey together. After Mary Lou received a diagnosis in 2014, Ken reached out to the MCN program for help.

Marty visited the couple at home, working with Ken to create emergency care and transition plans and directing him to helpful resources. She also gave him a better understanding of what the next few years might look like as Mary Lou’s condition changes.

Since the diagnosis, Marty has offered plenty of practical advice too – everything from eliminating trip hazards like rugs to taking a “sweet and soft” approach to caregiving with chocolate treats.

These days, Ken and Mary Lou stay busy with a range of activities, such as walking, going to the gym, and visiting places like the Arizona Science Center. They indulge in comfort foods like pizza and ice cream and spend time enjoying movies. Ken says, “Caregiving is challenging, but rewarding, and has changed me for the better. I’ve become a more compassionate and caring person with more empathy for others who are going through health issues. Caring for Mary Lou has made me a better person.”

Ken doesn’t know exactly what the future holds for Mary Lou, but he knows he can turn to Sun Health’s Memory Navigator Program as needed.

“I find it extremely useful and I think anybody going through this would need an organization like this,” Ken said. “Marty gave me a road map.”

Glenda and Jim Lee in their Sun City home.

Seeing the glass half full

Glenda Lee sees the glass half full, its contents brimming with positivity and energy. That persona comes out as she makes small talk, reminisces about life or brags on her grandchildren. Occasionally, she hits the brakes mid-sentence and says, “I’m sorry if I’m talking too much.”

Glenda’s energy, sense of humor and a solid faith help her cope with the ups and downs of being the main caregiver for her husband Jim who has vascular dementia, a condition in which blocked or reduced blood flow to the brain causes cognitive difficulties. Jim suffered a stroke in 2009, which led to the vascular dementia diagnosis. He struggles with speech and memory loss.

Glenda jokes that she has “half heimers” while Jim has “all heimers.” She knows it’s not politically correct humor, but says, “I deal better with funny.”

Jim spent his career driving long-line trucks and later started his own trucking company with his brother. The “silver fox,” which was his CB-radio handle, projects a strong, silent-type image, a sharp contrast from his wife’s exuberance.

“Jim’s always been quiet,” says Glenda who stayed at home when the Lee’s two children were younger and then worked 21 years as an elementary school secretary in Phoenix.

The couple, who recently celebrated 57 years of marriage, spend most of their waking hours together. They run errands, visit friends and family, attend church or relax at home. “We still love each other,” Glenda says, gazing at Jim who nods and slow rolls a smile.

Glenda attributes their bond to their faith, hope and the support of many friends, family and health professionals. Their son lives out of state but keeps in touch. Their daughter lives close by and is a big help to her mother and father.

One of the health professionals who’s lent a hand is Marty Finley, a Memory Care Navigator for Sun Health, who has helped Glenda learn how to take better care of Jim by taking better care of herself.

Glenda learned about Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator (MCN) program at Grace Bible Church of Sun City, where she sings in the choir and gets involved in other church activities. Jim is usually there with her. Glenda heard Marty give a talk about the MCN program and its offerings, which are provided at no cost to West Valley families impacted by Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

The navigators provide personal and professional guidance to individuals, family members and caregivers coping with the emotional, psychological and physical effects of memory loss. Support for the program comes entirely from Sun Health Foundation donors.

The navigator conducts an initial consult by phone and then visits the clients at home to learn more, assess the situation and answer questions. Next, the navigator develops a plan of care tailored to each patient’s needs. The navigator also can act as a liaison between clients and families, their physicians and ancillary community services.

Cheryl Ortega was the navigator who called on Glenda and Jim and she quickly earned the Lee’s trust with her knowledge and compassion. “Cheryl is one of the nicest people you could ever meet,” Glenda says.

“She connected me with resources and recommended seminars where I could learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s and I’ve gone to several of them.”

However, the thing that Glenda appreciates the most is the ongoing support that the navigators offer to clients. “Cheryl calls me every month to see how things are going,” Glenda says.

“It’s that kind of support that means the most to me.”

New direction for Gina and Jim 

Memory LossWhen Gina confided to others that her husband Jim (last names withheld at subjects’ request) was battling dementia, the reaction was often the same: Plenty of troubling stories and “here’s-what-you-should-do” advice.

Neither was helpful. Then Gina met Marty Finley, a navigator with Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator Program. She had an entirely different response.

“She actually gives you constructive things that you can do that make you feel like you are addressing the problem,” Gina said. “She’s really been a go-to person as things come up and I have questions.”

Now, Gina and Jim are traveling their new journey with a better sense of direction.

The Memory Care Navigator Program is designed to help clients, family members and caregivers navigate the emotional, psychological and physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

With guidance from navigators like Marty, clients develop a plan of care tailored to their needs. Clients also rely on navigators to serve as a liaison between them and families, physicians, and community services. Navigators make home visits and are available by phone.

Gina learned about the navigator program through an unexpected source. Gina and Marty happen to share the same hairdresser and after hearing Gina’s story, the hairdresser made an introduction.

The connection was meant to be. “I don’t think there are any accidents in this life,” Gina said.

And the connection could not have come at a more critical time.

“In the beginning, the diagnosis is devastating because you kind of know what’s coming or at least you’ve heard what’s coming,” Gina said.

Tears flowed, she said, over “losing a part of our life” and facing the coming changes.

During Marty’s first home visit with Gina and Jim, she did an assessment and began offering information and options. They talked about the importance of home safety and things like medic alert bracelets. Marty also suggested support groups for the couple and a day program for people with dementia that Jim now attends.

Marty was always just a phone call away. So as Gina heard suggestions in support groups, such as installing flip locks on the doors at home, she had someone to bounce ideas off.

Most important, she helped the couple create an action plan. “You feel like ‘OK, this is what it is, I have to come to terms with it, and these are the things that I can do to make life a little bit better for him’,” Gina said. “Day to day maybe it will make his life a little more comfortable and it will maybe make me not so fearful.”

During this journey, Gina has found comfort and strength in different ways. She stays busy with the fitness program Silver Sneakers and enjoys lunches with friends. She is guided by her faith and Bible passages.

She appreciates the gifts of friends – a willing shoulder to lean on, a prayer in a time of need – and the fact that Marty is always quick to lend an ear.

“Marty is a very good listener and I think that’s very helpful,” Gina said.

The Memory Care Navigator Program is offered to the community at no cost through the generosity of Sun Health Foundation donors.

“I’m very, very grateful that this program exists,” Gina said. “I think navigator is really a good term. Because in the beginning you’re just kind of floundering, you have no idea what direction to go in and everybody has an opinion as to what you should do. And that is really confusing.”

“The navigator program points you in the right direction and I am grateful for the help.”