Former first lady surprises deserving caregivers this Thanksgiving season

Alesia Simon's life is devoted to sustaining her father's.

“It's gotten to where I have to bathe him, shave him, help him get dressed,” she said. “It's a 24/7 job taking care of him.”

But for the Carroll County resident, forgoing her career and personal time was, without question, the right choice.

“They took care of me, so I had to turn around and take care of them,” Simon said. “I love my parents, you don’t get but one set of parents.”

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers calls people like Simon “the invisible frontline of our health care system.”

“Caregivers are critical in helping make sure someone gets all their medications or follows their diet, so they don't end up in the emergency room that's already really full,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, director of RCI. “In a lot of ways, these kinds of critical steps are so important and often not seen. The caregiver is often the advocate for the patient.”

That is why RCI and health services company, SeniorLink, teamed up to say “thank you” this Thanksgiving season.

Three Georgians -- Alesia Simon, Javoski Harden, Camille Adams -- were awarded $1,000 and a drive-by celebration for their selfless work as family, volunteer and para-professional caregivers.

“I got balloons and flowers and thanks and gratitude,” Simon said, grinning ear-to-ear. “It was just amazing, and I’m just thankful.”

Simon, awestruck, showed FOX 5's Emilie Ikeda her most treasured gift – a letter, penned by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. It read in part, “I am impressed with the work you are doing with your father.”

Simon said it’s a lasting reminder that her devotion is recognized and appreciated.

“It encourages you to keep doing it, keep going, to know that somebody cares,” Simon said.

RCI has honored people like Simon for nearly two decades.

Mrs. Carter was inspired to start the effort by personal experiences, including caring for family members as they battled cancer.

You can learn more about resources for caregivers here.