JFS Perspectives

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Client Spotlight: Seeing Sandy's Potential

Client Spotlight: Seeing Sandy's Potential

Sandy Marsik is 71 years old and legally blind. She suffers from a rare genetic disease that has resulted in the loss of most of her vision. Since her diagnosis, she’s had cataracts in both eyes, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. She’s had five corneal transplant surgeries. While her eyesight has improved after each, the disease always progresses.

Sandy and her dog, MitzvahBefore her vision challenges forced her to retire, Sandy was a successful oncology nurse in Chicago. The disease started to impact her in 1995, and in 2013 her doctor declared her legally blind. She could no longer drive or earn a living. “It hit me in the stomach,” she says.“Losing my vision was something I didn’t anticipate.”

As the disease continued to advance, it got to the point that Sandy couldn’t take care of daily living tasks. Then, she took a fall. It was then that a good friend intervened and recommended that she contact JFS for help. When Sandy reached out to JFS, she was connected with Eve Lowinger, a JFS care manager who oversees her care plan and keeps Sandy living safely and independently. It was the beginning of a long-term relationship of care and support that is helping Sandy thrive. 

Losing her vision took an emotional toll on Sandy. She began seeing a JFS therapist who specializes in aging issues and could help her process her immense sense of loss. Because she could no longer drive, JFS helped her with transportation so she could get to doctor appointments and run errands.

Sandy’s blindness has also limited her ability to maintain her apartment and cook for herself. She can’t do laundry, vacuum, mop, or any of the day-to-day tasks that most people take for granted. Operating the stove is dangerous for Sandy, so she is limited in her ability to prepare meals for herself.

To keep Sandy living independently, Eve arranged for a JFS homemaker who cleans Sandy’s apartment, including doing laundry and changing the sheets. Justine Berg visits Sandy once a week and does all the heavy lifting that Sandy can no longer do, plus helps to organize her kitchen and closets so she can find things. With Justine’s help, Sandy can safely use the stovetop and prepare meals for herself. “Having Justine in my life is such a blessing. Without her, I’d be living in a pigsty,” she confesses.

Justine is more than a housekeeper to Sandy. “We’ve become good friends,” she says. She looks after me. It helps that she loves my service dog Mitzvah as much as I do.”

Eve, Sandy, and JustineThe feeling is mutual for Justine. She has been working for JFS for the past year and enjoys her role as a homemaker for older adults. “I was a housekeeper for a local for-profit service and felt really unappreciated,” says Justine. “I was just cleaning houses and it wasn’t very rewarding. I enjoy meeting and interacting with the people I work with through JFS. It’s more personal and rewarding. I am making friends with all the people I work for.”

Eve and Sandy have formed a deep connection. Eve makes sure Sandy has everything she needs and personally takes her to medical appointments and to Talking Books Colorado every week, where Sandy can access audio books to satisfy her deep love of reading. Eve helps calm Sandy’s anxiety by being there when she’s needed.

“I can talk to Eve about things that are bothering me,” says Sandy. “I share feelings that I normally wouldn’t with others. I can tell her my problems and she helps me resolve them.”

JFS helped to establish “Team Sandy” to give her reliable, organized support with her care manager, homemaker, friends, and family. Sandy can rely on her team to take care of her every need.

Sandy is extremely appreciative of JFS. “Thank you so much,” she says. “The support I receive is wonderful. It has brought people into my life who have become my support system that I can count on. JFS offers me amazing help and does it in a personal, caring way, which is really important to me.”