Caregiver honored regionally for service, excellence - PineCreek Journal

Caregiver honored regionally for service, excellence

Friday, September 27, 2019 | 12:01 AM

When Heather Bailey first applied to be a professional caregiver three years ago, she wasn’t sure she was qualified for the position.

“I thought, ‘Well, I have experience, but I’m not trained,’ ” said the 33-year-old Fox Chapel resident, who had helped her mother through five major back surgeries and tended to her grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, when she was younger. “I just had experience from the heart, and I didn’t think that would be good enough. To my surprise, it has really truly been my calling.”

Bailey was recently honored for the second year in a row as BrightStar Care’s Northeast Region Caregiver of the Year at an event at the Walnut Grill in Wexford. She was nominated by Rose Purrelli Swensen, wife of BrightStar Care client Brian Lunt for whom Bailey cares in their North Hills home. Lunt and Swensen were present for the surprise reception as well as Bailey’s two children and her fiancee, and she received a trophy, sash, cake and a speech from Dave Drauch, owner of the BrightStar Care location on McKnight Road in Ross Township.

Drauch said it’s unusual to have a caregiver repeat as a regional winner, especially two years in a row. Bailey was chosen from among several hundred nominees, he said.

“What they told me (at the corporate office) was that most people on the evaluating committee didn’t know Heather won last year,” he said. “They had all come to the same conclusion that she was the person they would select. When they realized it was the same person from last year, they all agreed it really shouldn’t matter that she was the winner from last year.”

Drauch said one of the things that makes Bailey a standout caregiver is her willingness to take on challenging cases and her success with clients with a variety of illnesses and diagnoses. When she won in 2018, it was for her work caring for a woman with Alzheimer’s disease, also living in the North Hills, who has since passed away.

In Swensen’s letter to nominate Bailey this year, she wrote, “She is the model of a superior caregiver. I cannot thank her enough for bringing my husband back to me and helping us all define a new normal at home. I have met a number of caregivers; NO ONE comes close to this woman.”

Bailey said she and the family formed an instant connection in part because of their shared Italian heritage and dedication to family. She said she and her client enjoy lots of laughs and good times, but she also pushes and encourages him in his recovery and rehabilitation.

“I can’t even put into words what they mean to me,” she said of the family.

Bailey will now attend the national gala in Milwaukee, Wis., on Oct. 24, where they will name a national winner out of the four regional winners. The company pays all expenses, she said, and even treats the regional winners to a spa day ahead of the black tie banquet.

The national winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship to further his or her education, and Bailey said that if she wins she plans to use it to get her certified nursing assistant’s license.