Congratulations to Hawaii's Nominees for BrightStar Care's 2019 Caregiver of the Year Award

August 20, 2019

BrightStar Care of Hawaii is part of the BrightStar Care franchise. Each year, BrightStar Care reaches out to the people whose lives have been touched by compassionate care professionals nationwide to share their experiences. Hundreds of nominations pour in from our clients and their loved ones for review and a team of judges read each and every one through a difficult finalist selection process.

The nominations are tender, poignant and loving, and echo the many reasons why our clients continue to choose BrightStar Care – our caregivers are making our clients' lives better, and truly making more possible for them every chance they can.

We are pleased to announce that the following Hawaii caregivers have been nominated by their clients for BrightStar Care's 2019 Caregiver of the Year award. We are proud and honored of these outstanding individuals!

Ortiz,-Florencia-ID-badge.jpgFlorencia Ortiz, nominated by Wendy Lum
I nominate Florencia because she is caring and very hard working. She understands our family and is very attentive to my mom, always wanting the best for her. She is always on time for work and I appreciate the fact that she has to get up early to catch the bus to get here, that takes an hour or more. She also is willing to clean our house and cook delicious Chinese meals for us. It is a plus that she lived in Hong Kong for 28 years and is able to communicate in Cantonese with us. It’s been about a year now, since she started taking care of both my parents, and now just my mom, since my father passed away. Florencia has become a member of our family and we are so grateful for BrightStar matching her up with us. We are truly blessed by her care and can’t imagine life without her now! Thank you 🙏- Wendy Lum

Guillermo,-Rea.jpgRea Flor Guillermo, nominated by Wendy Golz
Rea has been a caregiver for my parents for over 2 years now. In that time, my parents have thrived under her care. She is a very caring individual, who is intuitive and very in tune to the needs of my parents and the family.   Rea is extremely reliable and can be counted on to be present and on time for every shift. She is also very accommodating and will adjust her schedule to assist when others are out and we need coverage, even at the last moment . Her consistency, accommodation, and work ethic have been a lifesaver in many situations and provide us with peace of mind.   While Rea is on duty, she will provide exercises, stretches, brain games and conversation and laughter. This adds much happiness and health to lives that many otherwise be dreary. This in addition to any chores that are assigned are always done with kindness, patience, and no complaints.   Rea is an ideal caregiver and can adjust to any situation that may arise. She is caring, patient, kind, and loving and has proven over and over what an excellent caregiver and person she is. Rea is an example of a model caregiver and anyone would be lucky to have her or someone like her in their lives. - Wendy Golz

Wakatsuki-Woods,-Jo-Ann2-(1).jpgJoAnn Wakatsuki-Woods, nominated by Ann Wong
JoAnn is the caregiver for my dad, Yoshinobu Oshiro. She is extremely caring, gentle and a wonderful person who brings joy to my dad's day and life. She does her tasks with utmost care, and consideration and of excellent quality. She does his laundry, cleans up the kitchen, gives him a pedicure and other tasks including talking story with him all in a very caring way. She has initiative and suggestions to assist my dad. I highly recommend her to be the recipient of BrightStar's Caregiver of the Year. She deserves this special recognition. We appreciate her hard work and wonderful care. Thank you very much. - Ann Wong

Fernandez,-Rowena-_-ID-Badge.jpgRowena Fernandez, nominated by Joy Nishino
Both my in-laws have advanced Alzheimer's/dementia. We did not have any success using another agency until BrightStar Care was recommended to us. They required daily care - meals, bathing, laundry, and house cleaning.   When I first met Rowena, I felt comfortable and secure that she had the knowledge, compassion, and patience to care for TWO people with Alzheimer's. Rowena understood the disease, and did not complain when mom punched and slapped her for trying to bathe her. She will listen to dad's daily complaint that he does not need help and can take care of mom, too.   During the first two weeks, Rowena noticed physical changes in mom and called me twice regarding her concerns. Both times I checked on mom, she did require immediate medical attention. It was during the first emergency visit we learned that mom had a massive stroke. Mom passed away from complications of a massive stroke one week later. Rowena continues to care for dad, and listens to his complaints. One day, dad has a 30 minute, one-sided conversation with Rowena about suicide. Rowena followed the BrightStar procedure and called in her concern. I was at work and left my cellular phone in another room. BrightStar personnel left several urgent messages on my phone to call them. When I returned their calls about 45 minutes later, I discovered that Rowena missed her bus because she was concerned for dad's safety and did not want to leave him alone. My brother-in-law who lives with him was not at home. Dad was surprised to see me when I showed up and asked about his day. Dad is not suicidal but with his disease, we cannot take any situation for granted. Rowena and I both got dad out of the house for a drive to take Rowena home that evening.   Even in his Alzheimer state, dad has enough sense and tells me that he trusts Rowena. Rowena cares for dad Monday through Friday and she is the only caregiver (aka maid) that dad remembers. Dad is also pack rat and does not believe in throwing anything away. Rowena is not afraid of a challenge and is willing to adapt to circumstances. She has helped me to organize the house and keep the house clean considering that dad and my brother-in-law are disorganized and messy. She is honest and has found large sums of money while dusting furniture and would leave it. Then call to inform me of the money and where I can find it. We did not know that mom would hide money under tablecloths.   I am especially thankful to have Rowena in our lives. I work 50 plus hours a week at my job. I am the primary caregiver for my father-in-law, my husband who has a brain disease, my own mom who no longer drives, and a senior dog. We live 25 miles from dad so it is not easy to drop everything to check on him. I had high blood pressure worrying about dad until Rowena. Now, my blood pressure is normal, and Rowena and I have gotten into a routine about dad's care. Dad is 5'8" and was 118 lbs when Rowena started caring for him. He is now 148 lbs. Both his primary care physician and his geriatrician are extremely pleased with his progress. I credit Rowena's care for dad's good health. She watches TV game shows with him to stimulate his memory. His memory will never be normal but we noticed that the stimulation has made a small glimmer of improvement in his memory. Thank you Rowena and BrightStar! - Joy Nishino

Ohara,-Lisa-ID-badge.jpgLisa Ohara, nominated by Sean Girlington
Going the extra mile in exceptionally hard situations with a dementia patient who is verbally abusive. The client has gone through several entire crews and no one wants to work there with her. Lisa retains her cool at all times and won her over. I appreciate Lisa's patience, kindness, and tenacity. - Sean Girlington

Okahara,-Ann.jpgAnn Okahara, nominated several members of the Masamitsu Family
Ann received several nomination letters.

Ann is always smiling. Her beautiful smile and gentle laughter worth million to brighten up entire house hold as well as bring smile to Tony’s face. Ann gets along with everyone and anyone and she is a great team player. Ann is always caring, kind, gentle, tactful and professional to take care of client, Tony. For example, when she wakes my husband up in the morning, instead of ordering him what to do, with her very gentle voice, she tells him some interesting stories such as how beautiful today’s weather is , how children are playing near the pool side etc. So, by listening her stories, my husband is encouraged to get out of the bed with his will. What a nice and professional way to encourage seniors! Ann is always alert and makes sure my husband is in safe position. For example, Her both hands are always free ready to support my husband when he walks, when he gets up from the chair or when he moves one place to the other. She assists my husband’s mobility with maximum safety! Ann always makes sure my husband is comfortable. For example, she has to apply medical skin lotion on his feet after each shower. Instead of just applying the lotion, she massages his feet with the skin lotions to make sure he feels comfortable and lotion can penetrate in his feet evenly. How caring ! Ann is very efficient to use her time wisely. When Tony is resting, Ann takes initiative to always look for jobs which can keep her work environment clean and neat and easy to manage. Ann is also an great assistant and an excellent coordinator for Tony’s medical appointments and day time activities . She is also very good at utilizing modern technologies which can monitor Tony’s health condition as well as his daily schedules in place. What a great idea! We, entire Masamitsu family feel very lucky and fortunate to have Ann for my husband’s care taker. Most of all, Tony love her professionalism and she is his favorite care taker ! That is why we think that Ann is the best candidate for upcoming “ Caregiver of the Year!” - Norie Masamitsu

My name is Sue Eguchi, I am the personal secretary of Tony Masamitsu for last 25 years. It was very hard for me to see that my boss Tony ‘s spiritual and physical health were declining after he became 85 years old. For a while family was worrying about how to find the best care which fits his needs. Thanks to the BrightStar for sending the right and the perfect caregiver to Tony. After Ann started taking care of Tony which was almost 5 years ago, I can clearly see that Tony’s mental and physical condition were stabilized and even improved a lot in some parts! Before Ann comes, his sleeping schedule was so messed up and he ended up sleeping all day long which caused him to have massive dehydration. Since Ann started coming in as a morning shift caregiver, she patiently and gently tries to wake Tony up each morning, with her consistency and caring, now Tony has the schedule which he gets up in the morning and go to sleep at night. The normal cycle of sleeping pattern was crucial for Tony’s health and it was as crucial to the rest of the family who needs to maintain their normal life style . Ann is liked by everyone and anyone not only by the family but also people around her like me. Since I have a chance to communicate with entire family quite often, every family member highly talks about Ann ‘s great personality and her professionalism as a caregiver. Wife Norie has an elderly mother living in Japan, therefore she needs to go to Japan to take care of her own Japanese mother, however, she always tells me that as long as Ann is around, Masamitsu family has nothing to worry about !! Now Once again, his warm smiles came back to Tony’s face as well as to the family. What a great transformation! By seeing these great contribution Ann gives to the entire family, as the personal secretary of Masamitsu family, I highly recommend Ann to be “ The caregiver of the year!.” I think She deserves it!  - Sue Eguchi

Ann Okahara has been helping our family take care of my dad since 2013, and she has been the rock of all caregivers who have come and gone within the BrightStar family in the past 5 yrs that we have utilized your services. Not only is she a role model caregiver, but she has patiently instructed all other caregivers on the particulars of how best to motivate my father, who has severe dementia on top of other ailments, as he is 91 years old. Elderly dementia patients are as diverse as the rest of society, and even more so, in that their needs and moods can change by the day, or even by the hour, and Ann is exceptional when it comes to being in tune with those changing needs, and working accordingly to accommodate those needs. There are so many reasons why I would like to submit my nomination for Ann as “BrightStar’s Caregiver of the Year," but there is one thing that stands out in my mind: the way in which she is able to get my father out of bed, to start off his day in the most positive way possible. My father has many physical ailments—he needs assistance to walk with his cane (his balance is not very good, but his doctor feels he needs to keep moving, as long as he can physically manage it), he has severe back problems, he often has headaches, and feels extremely fatigued, even upon waking from a full night’s rest. On top of that, because of his dementia, sometimes he can’t remember how to do basic functional things, and he gets frustrated and confused. Task initiation for him, has been thrown out the window. All of these things combined, and most days, he does not want to get out of bed, and he often refuses to comply. Ann has developed a way that works particularly well for my dad: she never tells him specifically to wake up, or that it’s time to wake up (or that he even has to wake up), or to hurry and get out of bed because of an appointment! Rather, in her naturally cheerful (she is the most cheerful person I have ever met in my entire life), highly energetic manner, she slightly opens his drapes, she constantly talks to him about various things and does her best to engage him with questions, she gets his morning routine items ready as she continues to talk to him, opens the drapes a little more, and keeps at this cycle, patiently, until he is “naturally wakened and drawn out of bed" under her positive influence and energy—she has been doing this day in and day out for over 5 years, and never loses her patience, and never succumbs to boredom from repeating the same things constantly. I have even seen her patiently re-teach my dad how to best brush his teeth, and while that was difficult for me to take in, I was so struck and touched by her kindness and gentle instructions. She multi-tasks like nobody’s business, and has been as energetic and cheerful this week, as she was 5 years ago when she started! Even on my dad’s worst of days when he is ornery and combative, Ann maintains her compassion, her patience, her constant cheerfulness, and she is one of the few people who can consistently get my dad out of bed to start his day. This may sound like a simple step, but without being able to get him out of his bed first, my dad wouldn’t be able to drink his medicine, eat his meals, get to his PT or doctor appointments, or anything else—without being able to get out of bed, he wouldn’t be able to do all the other “routine” things he does daily with Ann, and I’m sure he would simply deteriorate at a faster rate. Specifically, I could list so many things that Ann “does” for my parents, all of which I personally feel is "above and beyond" and deserves recognition in its own right, but Ann is much, much more than simply the services she provides. She is incredibly empathetic, full of compassion, her patience and cheerfulness know no bounds—but most of all, her inner energy, her exuberant, always positive personality, and her constant smile fill my parents’ apartment with laughter and happiness, and that is more important to me than any “service” a caregiver could provide. Thank you for your consideration of Ann’s nomination. Ann Okahara is a wonderful human being, and I am grateful every day that she is there taking care of my parents. I live in NYC and only see my parents in Hawaii for one month out of the year, and the peace of mind I have, experiencing for myself in that one month per year, how well Ann is taking care of them, and to hear from my parents directly when I’m not there, how much positivity, stability, and happiness she brings to their daily lives—it is beyond anything I could adequately describe in words. She is a truly exceptional person, and that shines through in everything she does, especially in the detailed, caring attention she gives to my parents. Thank you for bringing Ann into our lives! - janet masamitsu

Thank you for the opportunity to nominate my father’s caregiver, Ann Okahara, for the 2018 BrightStar Caregiver of the Year Award. She is one of the most compassionate, patient, honest, hard-working, loving, respectful, and genuinely caring person I have ever met, and my 90-year-old father (and our family) is so lucky that Brightstar Care Honolulu had chosen her to care for him almost five years ago. Before Ann became my father’s primary daytime caretaker, my mother spent a great deal of time in the morning, nagging him to get out of bed. I think sometimes, he stayed in bed just to spite her. They both seemed very unhappy. I was doing most of the driving to his various appointments and seeing his doctors with him. While I felt it was my duty to help out my parents, I found myself spending less time with my two young sons with ADHD and learning disabilities. Five years ago, I was in a difficult and stressful situation where I sometimes had to choose between taking care of my father or my children. Many times, I felt I had to choose my father. My own family started falling apart, and I lost an excessive amount of weight due to stress, anxiety, and depression. I even started feeling resentful that my mother expected me to help so much with my father’s care when my own family needed me. I finally realized that we needed help caring for my father so I can be there for my own family. I contacted Alison Lee at BrightStar in Honolulu. My father had a few other caretakers from BrightStar before Ann came to us. While I was happy enough with the initial few caretakers, Ann is the one who changed my family’s life. My father started getting up at regular hours in the morning. It’s probably hard to be grumpy and refuse to get up when a smiling ball of energy pops in and says, “Good morning, Tony!!” Ann set up a good morning routine that gets Dad started on a positive note. Because Mom wasn’t nagging him so much anymore, my parents’ relationship has become much better. Ann has always been self-driven, self-motivated, and proactive. She doesn’t need to be told what to do. She can see what needs to be done and gets them done efficiently. She never needs reminders. She does her best to encourage my father to get out of the house (not easy), by, for example, showing him movie trailers on his iPad to get him interested. She knows exactly when and how to get him started to get him to appointments on time. She speaks respectfully and kindly to my father, even when he’s in a bad mood. She writes detailed notes daily so other caretakers know exactly how my father was and what she did during her shift, also noting what needs to be finished or done next. She communicates with our family members so we are constantly aware of anything we need to know about Dad or our parents’ home. She really cares about Dad and our family. She’s always going way above and beyond what we expect of her, just because of the goodness of her heart, and because that’s just the way she is. I can go on and on about why she’s such a wonderful caretaker, but I better stop here. Ann deserves an award just for being able to put up with my fastidious mother and to meet her standards for Dad’s caregiver. In fact, Ann has created a problem where now, my mother judges all other caregivers against her. While we are looking for another caregiver to fill other shifts, we are trying to get our mom to lower her expectations because Ann is simply extraordinary, and it would be unfair and unrealistic to expect another caregiver to be as amazing as she is. Even after almost five years, Ann strives to provide the best care possible. After five years at a job, some people get a little too comfortable and start to slack off or let little things slide. Not Ann. It goes without saying that Ann continues to be very punctual, but Ann has also managed to find ways to improve on her already high standard of care. She clearly takes great pride in her work. Because she has gotten to know my father better over the years, she can anticipate his needs and prepare accordingly. Ann is therefore able to calmly and patiently respond to my father’s needs as opposed to scrambling to react to whatever happens. As far as my family and I are concerned, Ann Okahara is the BrighStar Caregiver of the Century. I simply cannot sing enough praises about her as she continues to impress us in so many ways. It is thanks to Ann that our father Tony is still going strong and will be turning 91 next week. Five years ago, I felt guilty that my parents had to hire “strangers” to provide care for my father. Today, the only slight guilt I feel is that Ann is taking better care of my father than I am! Thanks to Ann and everything that she does—always with a big genuine smile on her face--I am a better daughter, a better mother, better wife, a better person. Please choose Ann Okahara to be this year’s BrightStar Caregiver of the Year, since you don’t have the Caregiver of the Century category. - Mahalo, Lillian Kam