Katie Wilkinson is a longtime caregiver with the Cattaraugus County Department of the Aging.

What You Need To Know

  • November is National Family Caregivers Month
  • More than 90 million Americans, including those in New York state, receive some sort of care from family or friends
  • One Cattaraugus County senior citizen tells about the special bond she's created with her caregiver

Sherrie St. John, 72, is on the receiving end of Katie's care.

"I'm so immobile,” she said. “I have MS."

Katie does a number of things for Sherrie, including pouring her morning coffee and pairing it with just the right donut, before setting it down by Sherrie's side as she gets comfortable in her remote controlled recliner.

"I am a mother of two special needs children, so I think that I have like a kindred spirit toward helping people, remain as independent as possible," said Wilkinson.

The two also play cards, watch TV, discuss important health care decisions and work to keep Sherrie as active as possible at home given her condition.

"It's a marvelous, wonderful, joyous thing and I'm so happy not to be in a nursing home,” she said. “With MS, if you lay in a bed, you soon can't move. To go to a nursing home, I'm done. Done. Done.”

In addition to giving support, Katie and her family also receive it from the county.

"That's an invaluable step is to really be able to pull in the assistance of others,” she said. “Just making sure that we're able to take advantage of the supports that are out there. I think as a caregiver that's helping too, like working with the case manager."

"Katie is a perfect example of why it's important to take this month and recognize caregivers,” said Kayla Chesebro, from the county's Department of the Aging, and is Katie's case worker.

She says the pandemic has put a strain on caregivers and encourages family, friends and neighbors to sign up and help someone they know.

"Across the state, if they didn't have those people, along with even our department to help with their services, maybe they wouldn't be able to stay home independent where they want to be,” said Chesebro.

Staying independent at home is exactly where Sherrie wants to be, thanks to caregivers like Katie who help combat the isolation.

"To have people come in, talk to you, play with you and eat with you and tease you and help you is just beyond anything you can imagine,” said Sherrie. “It's like having a family with you."

And in this case, that's exactly what it is, as Katie is also Sherrie's daughter, now giving her mom the care and support she received growing up.

"It's something that you just do,” said Katie. “And my approach in caregiving with my mom and as well as my two disabled children is really to try and think of the dignity that I would want to have in those situations."

At the end of the day, it's that dignity Sherrie so appreciates.