“I’ve pretty much been in this field my whole entire life,” says our December Aide of the Month Samantha Wieglo. With two family members with disabilities, Samantha found out early in life that people who need help deserve compassion and respect. “In our family, disabilities are normal. They’re not abnormal.”
As early as five years old, Samantha found herself looking out for her Aunt Tammy, who has an intellectual disability and the cognitive functionality of a seven-year-old. In helping her, Samantha discovered as a child, the delight in helping others and seeing them thrive. Today, she has become a champion for Aunt Tammy, encouraging her to take part in church events, helping her with shopping, and comforting her through doctor’s appointments.
“What really got me into the field,” explains Samantha, “was my niece. She has Angelman syndrome.” Angelman syndrome is a rare neuro-genetic disorder that can cause impairment of development, motor skills, speech, and balance. Samantha has been a loving caregiver to her highly impaired niece Alexis since 2002 when Alexis was two years old, some of the time as a paid Home Health Aide.
Samantha, who has a husband Larry, a daughter Lillian, and a little one on the way, has always found a way to make time for her family. “I grew up in a family that if something happened, you take care of your family. You don’t cast them aside or put them in a nursing home. You take care of them. Recently, my grandparents passed, and I helped take care of my grandparents. They stayed in their home until, literally, the day they died. My grandfather got diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. And my grandma had congestive heart failure. My grandma passed first, then eight days later, my grandfather passed. Eight days was the longest they’ve physically been apart. They were married for 68 years.”
Samantha gives her clients the same level of care she gives to her own family. She cleans, cooks, and provides companionship for her CCOR clients, never forgetting to show them respect. “I treat them how I would want to be treated,” she says. “I put myself in their spot. So, if I was unable to walk and in a wheelchair all the time, I would want someone to serve me with as much dignity as I serve them.”
Samantha enjoys sharing with her clients a special skill she learned from her grandmother: cooking. “I help a couple of clients cook and bake,” she says with a smile. “I grew up in a country farm kitchen, so I know how to do everything from scratch. A bunch of my clients love that.” She even plans to make holiday cookies with some of her clients. “I do a whole week of cookies at my house, so what’s a couple more days to do cookies with clients to make them happy?”
Samantha is a beautiful example of one of CCOR’s core values: “Extending the family.” At CCOR, we strive to treat all our clients like family. For Samantha, this is easy to do. Her clients receive exactly the same level of care she provides to her own family.
When she’s not giving care to family or clients, she exercises a love of horses. Samantha used to work on a rescue horse farm and even owned two rescue horses. One of them she bought directly from an abusive owner. “I turned her around in two years and was able to sell her to a really loving home. So, it’s always been in my nature to care for something.”
Samantha’s kind, caring nature spills out into all areas of her life, especially her family. Her 12-year-old daughter Lillian admires her mother’s work and has, herself, demonstrated a compassionate attitude towards a disabled schoolmate. We can only hope that someday Lillian will become a CCOR aide, just like her mother.