06 Apr 2010, Posted by admin in Features, 2 Comments
By Debbie Stern
She runs a successful organization and has just been honored with a prestigious fellowship that is both humbling and rewarding, but none so much as the hug that came out of nowhere from a little girl who’d been through so much— probably a little girl much like herself at that age, trying to hold it together to care for an ill family member.
Connie Siskowski, a 2004 Ph.D. graduate of Lynn, was that little girl years ago, helping to care for her grandfather at the tender age of 11. When he developed heart problems and needed medication round the clock, she slept in the living room to be near him.
“It was just in me to do that,” she says. “We had a really special bond; he was my protector.”
And at the end, she was the one who found him not breathing. Looking back, she says it was probably even more traumatic than anyone realized or appreciated at the time.
“This is the only program of its kind in the country. This is a model to try here—a petri dish of a population. We’re really pioneers in this venture, and it all really came out of Lynn.” —Connie Siskowski
Throughout her life Siskowski’s education and career would always be focused on caregiving. She received her nursing degree from Johns Hopkins and went on to become a cardiac nurse. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from New York University and worked in hospital administration, long-term care and hospice (when she moved to Florida), consulted and even ran her own medical company.
But her true calling came when she formed Volunteers for the Home-bound and Family Caregivers (formerly called Boca Raton Interfaith in Action). The Boca Raton-based nonprofit organization provides free support services for people who are homebound and family caregivers.
Her life’s work
“Her appreciation for family caregiving came about in 1998 when she attended the first international conference on the subject in London. It was there she learned about young caregivers and the effects the responsibility had on them—and what was ultimately to be her life’s work.”
(Top photo) Connie Siskowski as a little girl with her beloved grandfather, Joseph Clinton Vreeland, and her brother, Robert Brown, at the beach in the 1950s. A few years later, she would help care for her grandfather.