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A Day in the Life of a Caregiver

Local man works with residents of Noah Homes

SPRING VALLEY — On Nov. 20, Bishop Robert W. McElroy visited Noah Homes, a nonprofit in Spring Valley for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism.

In addition to meeting residents, he was also able to meet many of the caregivers who have dedicated their lives to serving those in need.

“When your day starts before sunrise and ends after sunset, you get used to having your work go unnoticed,” said Molly Nocon, CEO of Noah Homes. “It was an honor to host Bishop McElroy and to pay tribute to caregivers and the community that have provided so much support to our folks.”

Nocon was referring to people like Jerry Godinez, who joined Noah Homes in May 2006, not knowing then that his role as a caregiver for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would evolve into a lifelong passion.

More than a decade later, Godinez arrives at 6 a.m. to begin his 12- to 14-hour day (often longer), managing more than 20 support professionals in Noah Homes’ two new memory care homes. These are the first of their kind in the state of California and house 20 people with disabilities who exhibit symptoms of cognitive decline and dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.

It’s the job of caregivers like Godinez to make people’s lives easier, at the toll of their own well-being. From long hours to handling a wave of emotions and physical needs, the stress of finances to the emotional demands of leading residents through hospice care, a day in the life of a caregiver is no small feat. Yet, you won’t hear that from Godinez.

“It’s a pleasure and I enjoy it so much,” he said. “What we’re trying to do in the memory care homes is raise the standard of care, and it takes a team to do that. At the end of the day, I can go home knowing that the residents are safe, healthy and happy, and that I had a hand in making that happen. I wish that more people had a place to call home like Noah Homes.”

Without people like Godinez, people like Joey may never have found their forever home. Joey happily lived with his mother until her death in 2006, when things got tough. He was known for being very social, even a bit of a flirt, and enjoyed participating in the St. Madeline Sophie’s Center day program. Unfortunately, as he aged, he began experiencing new health issues related to Down syndrome and multiple sclerosis (MS) that eventually confined him to a wheelchair.

As his care needs increased, it became harder and harder for his sister to find a place that could accommodate him. The year before he came to Noah Homes, he was in and out of six different care homes and rehab facilities and could no longer participate in programming.

On March 13, he was displaced one last time. With the help of Joey’s sister Linda Houston, Godinez picked up Joey and brought him to Noah Homes.

“He was in a wheelchair and needed a lot of assistance just getting in the van,” said Godinez. “He was in some sort of pain and didn’t feel very confident. His legs were also swollen from lack of exercise.”

The constant support, patience and friendship he has since received have given him the strength to go back to the program with friends and regain his mobility with the help of a walker. Just in time for Joey’s 50th birthday, Godinez and his staff are grateful to be able to give him the forever home he’s been looking for, and to celebrate his newly rediscovered independence.

In addition to adding 20 new residents this year, 13 people celebrated more than 30 years as residents of Noah Homes.

For volunteer opportunities or to learn more about Noah Homes, visit www.noahhomes.org or call (619) 660-6200.

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