WINTERSVILLE - "I'm overwhelmed" was Jane Agresta's response to being singled out as 2013 Jefferson County Caregiver of the Year.
The Steubenville woman was honored Wednesday at St. Florian Hall during the seventh-annual Jefferson County Caregiver luncheon organized by the Area Agency on Aging, Region 9, where she received a plaque, applause and a spa basket from Valley Hospice presented by representative Chris Orris.
But it was an afternoon that brought together other caregivers as well to provide them, too, with a few hours of respite and appreciation for the care and compassion they provide to their loved ones.
Jane Agresta of Steubenville, left, stands before the audience at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville to receive her 2013 Jefferson County Caregiver of the Year award from Laurel DuBeck, community education coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging Region 9 Inc., in Byesville. The award was presented during Wednesday’s seventh-annual Jefferson County Caregiver luncheon.
-- Janice Kiaski
They and a guest were treated to lunch and musical entertainment courtesy of Jan Smith of Zanesville in addition to being provided with goodie bags and a chance to browse vendor booths offering a variety of pertinent caregiving information.
"There are so many things we can't do for our caregivers in the nine counties that we cover, but the thing we can do is just give you a few hours away from caregiving where we focus solely on you," Laurel DuBeck said in welcoming those in attendance. DuBeck is the community education coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging, Region 9, based in Byesville.
As part of her opening remarks, DuBeck mentioned the late Mary Krauskopf of Jefferson Behavioral Health who had passed away in recent days. "Mary was a huge part of this event from the beginning. She did a lot for us, behind-the-scenes work for this, and she was also on the agency's regional advisory board, so she will be missed," DuBeck said.
Agresta was one of 16 Jefferson County caregivers nominated by individuals for the honor. The others were Debbie Sloane, Carol Sabatino, Dorothy Hoagland, Patty Wetherell, Jennie Avoli, Karen and Joe Smith, Vivian Burge, Bette Marsili, John Gregory, Lawrence Argentine, Linda Metz, Evelyn Householder, Robert Snyder, Ellen Burgess and David Hanlin.
Their stories were part of the program booklet that also included "The Four C's of Caregiving" that caregivers are instructed to recite daily: I didn't cause it, I can't cure it, I can't control it, I can only cope with it."
The selection of the caregiver was based on the nomination essay.
Mary Ann Reese of Charity Hospice nominated Agresta. Here, in part, is what Reese wrote:
"Jane and Raymond Agresta had spent 57 years together, raised two sons, Greg and Ray, and had lifelong careers in service to the public. Ray, for 30 years, was first the city treasurer for Steubenville, then the Jefferson County treasurer. Jane graduated as a registered nurse in 1955, working at the local hospitals and as a private duty nurse.
"They enjoyed many family, community and church events together over the year.s In 2005, Ray retired and in 2007 was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Life as they knew it together began to change. For 19 years, they enjoyed going to cardiac rehab at Trinity Medical Center East gym. They had gone three times a week until Ray's motivation and memory were no longer the same, approximately three years ago...
"The last two years of Raymond's life meant total care giving by his loving wife, Jane.
"Jane rarely was able to leave the house. Even going to church was impossible. Ray's steady decline meant assistance with all needs
"As Ray got weaker, Jane did exercises every day for a year at home with him to attempt a longer period of endurance. Finally a need for a walker, then a wheelchair was a must. Becoming bed and chair bound in the last two months never slowed Jane's diligent effort to maintain the utmost dignity and respect for her beloved husband
"Jane noted how Ray would always keep his loving, sweet personality despite his inability to always recognize her by name, stating Ray would call her 'The Boss.'
"Raymond's family got to celebrate Christmas with him, then he went to his Heavenly Father on Dec. 26, 2012. Jane's endeavors exemplify, in the truest sense, the devotion in marriage two people make to each other 'in sickness and health - til death do us part.' They were an example to emulate.
"Jane continues to attend the monthly Alzheimer's support group to extend comfort and reassurance to those who presently care for their loved one with the 'long good-bye' from gradual memory loss. She also provides support as a member of the (Steubenville) woman's club now, which sets goals and projects to assist others in many areas of need locally and abroad. Jane's helping nature has been evident throughout her life, indeed, representative as a recognized caregiver of Jefferson County."
Aside from the Area Agency on Aging, sponsors that made the event possible were Acuity Specialty Hospital, Prime Time Office on Aging, Valley Hospice, Accera, Cambridge Home Health Care, Country Club Retirement, Bellaire, Sienna Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, Steubenville Dialysis, YMCA Wellness Center at St. John's Arena, Carriage House, Interim HealthCare, M.C. Mobility Systems and Ohio Valley Home Health Services Inc.