2018 Caregiver of the Year | Midwest Region

Marisa Garza

Midwest Region

Madison, WI Office

Marisa's caring and thoughtful gestures nourish the body and spirit of a woman living with Parkinson's and dementia. Gay's husband, Don, says, “I know my bride is doing better than she would be if it weren’t for the care she’s currently receiving. I don’t know what the future holds for Gay, but right now the future feels bright because of Marisa.”

Nomination Letter

Written by Don W., husband of client Gay

I have been working with BrightStar Care of Madison since the summer of 2014 to provide care for my wife Gay while I continue to work full-time. Over these past four years, we have had several good matches from BrightStar; I could tell that each of them really cared about my bride and took very good care of her. However, we have never had a caregiver that comes anywhere close to our current caregiver Marisa, and that is why I’d like her to be recognized as Caregiver of the Year.

My wife has Parkinson’s with dementia. For the first year she was receiving care from BrightStar, the caregivers were able to take her for walks and really interact with her. By the following summer, Gay was no longer able to interact with staff in the same way, and despite the best efforts of everyone, she began to lose weight as it was hard to get her to focus on eating. 

When Marissa became Gay’s caregiver in April of 2017, I could tell right away she was someone special. We had some toys and games in the home for when our grandkids come to visit, and Marissa started playing games with Gay, just simple little tasks like sorting cards, but Gay really seems to enjoy it. They also look through magazines and Marisa talks to Gay about the photos. 

When I come home from work Marisa is always right there next to Gay. That is important to me because I have a housekeeper that comes every other week to focus on keeping the house clean, I want BrightStar caregivers to focus on keeping my bride happy. Marisa understands that. By the way, I think it is also worth mentioning that my cleaning lady has noticed the change in Gay under Marisa’s care and made sure to mention to me how special this caregiver is compared to all the others. 

I’ve noticed a few times that Gay was wearing a colorful scarf or blouse that I didn’t recognize and discovered that Marissa had brought it for my wife to, literally brighten her day. I, of course, informed Marisa I was happy to pay for those items. Marisa brought my wife a little present for Valentine’s Day, a fuzzy, pink octopus that has become a favorite item for Gay. She loves to hold it, sometimes for several hours, each day. I would have never thought my wife would get so much enjoyment from a little plush toy, but Marissa seems to instinctively know what things Gay will like.

My wife is not only happier with Marisa as her caregiver, she is healthier too. At her lowest point, my wife weighed about 86 pounds, and she has regained all the weight she lost since Marisa was matched with Gay, now up over 100 pounds again. It is not uncommon for my wife to refuse to eat at first, but if you give her some time and offer her food again in 30 minutes to an hour, she might eat everything. The bottom line is, she will eat on her schedule, not yours, and Marisa understands that. Sometimes Marisa has even shared her own lunch with Gay since Gay seemed more interested in what Marisa brought to eat.

Since Marisa knows my wife so well, I brought her along to Gay’s primary doctor visit in June and to her neurology appointment in July. I’ve never brought another BrightStar caregiver to the doctor with us. Maybe I should have, it just didn’t dawn on me to do so until we had Marisa. She was able to share observations about Gay’s movement, eating patterns and any other important changes in a way that really added value to the conversation. When the doctor asked if there were issues with incontinence, we had two different answers. I said yes and Marisa said no. Come to find out, Marisa is so diligent with taking Gay to the toilet every two hours that my wife stays dry all day.
I know Marisa has had some personal challenges in moving to Madison since most of her family is still in Texas. Her daughter has had a hard time adjusting to a new school, and when her father had some health challenges in January, I know it was especially hard for her to be so far away from him. I was glad she was able to take some time off work to go visit him, but we really missed her here. She and my wife have such a strong bond. Even though Gay now shows very little emotion, I could tell how pleased she was when Marisa returned. 

I’m sure there are many deserving caregivers out there, but Marisa is one of the most patient, attentive, positive and caring individuals I’ve ever met. I know my bride is doing better than she would be if it weren’t for the care she’s currently receiving. I don’t know what the future holds for Gay, but right now the future feels bright because of Marisa. That is why I feel she is deserving of the title Caregiver of the Year. Thank you for your consideration of Marisa as deserving his honor.