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Victoria caregiver gets national award

By BY KELDY ORTIZ - KORTIZ@VICAD.COM
Oct. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.
Updated Oct. 7, 2012 at 5:07 a.m.

Linda Garrison accepts an award for Caregiver of the Year from Senior Helpers on  Sept. 29

Helping others has been a task that caregiver Linda Garrison has enjoyed, and not a day goes by where she thinks twice about the work she does.

Recognizing that was Senior Helpers owner Wendy McHaney, who hired Garrison in February 2010. Since her time at the Victoria-based Senior Helpers location, Garrison has exceeded her expectations beyond that of a caregiver.

Last week, Garrison's job was noticed, as she was awarded Caregiver of the Year at the annual Senior Helpers convention in Nashville, Tenn. It was the first time a Victoria location has ever been recognized for the achievement.

"For someone like me to be recognized, I was excited coming from a small town," said the Lolita native. "I thought it was unbelievable."

What drove McHaney to nominate Garrison for the award, while already working 3,500 hours and completing volunteer courses Helpers offers in caring for patients with dementia and Alzheimer's, was the lengths she went to help her patients.

Not wanting to leave a patient alone last fall, Garrison drove with the patient to Florida to see a friend of hers who was sick. On the way there, they stopped to do some sightseeing. That later would be the last trip the patient would take, as he later died.

"I've never had anyone I felt who was over the top," McHaney said. "She is just so extraordinary with caregivers I work with. She would work 24 hours if she could. She constantly works with anybody and anyone."

Getting to that point of notoriety was not Garrison's goal.

Prior to being a caregiver, she was a pre-kindergarten teacher in Jacksonville, Fla. She enjoyed that job, until tragedy hit. Her mother, Hazel Tucker, had a stroke. Upon being released from the hospital, Tucker had to be under 24-hour care. So, along with her sister, Rhonda Meador, who was already based in Texas, Garrison left her job to care for her mother.

Soon after arriving to her mother's aid, she died in April 2007. From there, she decided to continue the role of caring for others.

While Garrison said the job can have its ups and downs - losing people whom she cared for - she said she still understands her purpose.

"Through helping my own family, and seeing what I had gone through ... I feel like I'm making a difference."

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