Council on Aging Annual Awards

Monday, March 18, 2013

Honoring those who make life better for older adults

Caregivers and professionals who work to make life better for older adults were honored at the 42nd annual meeting of Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio (COA). The meeting was held March 6 at the Sharonville Convention Center. Awards were presented by Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann and COA Board Chairman William Thornton, Jr.

The awards and winners are:

President`s Award
Jane Karnes Straker, PhD Senior Research Scholar, Scripps Gerontology Center and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Gerontology, Miami University

The Council on Aging President`s Award is given to people who stick their necks out to help seniors. It honors those who are not afraid to take risks to make things better people with gumption.

Along with her colleagues at Scripps, Dr. Straker, of Oxford, has provided many years of research, analysis, and scholarship that have helped Council on Aging and numerous other organizations understand and plan for the needs of our aging population.

One of Dr. Straker`s most valuable contributions has been her work on a customer satisfaction survey, which is known as SASI. SASI stands for Service Adequacy and Satisfaction Instrument. Council on Aging first developed the SASI in 1999, in conjunction with Scripps. It was ahead of its time. In those days, few, if any organizations were asking seniors whether or not they were happy with their home care services and home-delivered meals.

For more than seven years, Dr. Straker has been leading the SASI project at Scripps. She has been an active partner in improving the survey. With the help of Scripps and COA`s Business Intelligence Department, we now have a SASI which allows both COA and providers to track and compare customer satisfaction by provider.

In 2007, Dr. Straker became a member of the Advisory Council for the Butler County Elderly Services Program. She has served for six years, including terms as Secretary and President. For three years, she has chaired the council`s Service Committee, which debates and decides many issues related to program operations and policies.

In recent years, the advisory council has faced several challenging, controversial and even unpopular policy decisions. Dr. Straker always spoke up in favor of changes that she felt needed to be made for the good of the program.

In nominating Dr. Straker for this award, Ken Wilson, COA`s Director of Program Operations said: "Jane is always willing to do the right thing. She stays focused on what the data show and what is best for Butler County seniors. Her credibility as a researcher and her willingness to speak out have supported us in our meetings with county commissioners. She uses her knowledge of trends at the national and state levels to help develop good policy at the local level."

Outstanding Professional in Aging
Lynn Melzer, Retired Director of Aging Services, Cincinnati Recreation Commission

This award honors a professional in the field of aging who has made significant and lasting contributions through a variety of ways such as teaching, research, writing, community outreach, leadership, care management, or advocacy.

Melzer, of Western Hills, was nominated by Christopher Bigham, director of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, where she has worked for more than 30 years. Since 1999, she has overseen all Older Americans Act funding to the commission as well as all centralized programs for seniors.

Melzer`s sense of mission and advocacy on behalf of older adults has greatly impacted programming for City of Cincinnati Senior Centers along with other centers in our region.

Her passion has been to help older adults remain healthy, active and involved in their communities. It is she who has shaped the annual Senior Hall of Fame luncheon, which honors older adult volunteers and is attended by more than 500 people. And she is well known for her leadership of the annual Senior Olympics for the tri-state area. Her positive attitude, good communications skills, and project management expertise, resulted in events that were well-coordinated and fun.

Several years ago, Melzer participated in COA`s Senior Center Re-Engineering Project. She helped develop a strategic plan and was quick to embrace changes that resulted in the project receiving recognition from the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Outstanding Service Provider
Margo McMurray, Care Manager, Council on Aging

This award honors an individual who provides services to older adults which improve their quality of life and independence.

McMurray is an Assisted Living Care Manager for Council on Aging. She has been with COA for eight years. She was nominated by Beverly Kleeb, Director of Assisted Living for the Cottingham Retirement Community.

In her nomination, Kleeb wrote: "Margo McMurray is one of the most organized and caring senior advocates I have had the pleasure to work with in my 25 years of working in Assisted Living. Cottingham`s experience with the Assisted Living Waiver program has been so positive in great part thanks to Margo."

McMurray is known for her outstanding job of explaining to her clients and their families about what to expect when entering the Assisted Living Wavier Program. Time after time, she clears up confusion and allays people`s concerns.

She encourages clients and treats them with respect. As Kleeb said, "She is not judgmental and she does not sugar-coat anything." After she visits clients, they often tell me, …"My good friend Margo was here today." We all feel that way, Kleeb said, "She is our good friend, Margo."

Outstanding Caregiver
Ron Hitchcock, Lebanon, Ohio

This Award honors an extraordinary caregiver who gives generously day in and day out so that others can have easier, better and longer lives.

Hitchcock lives in Lebanon where he cares for his mother, Della Hitchcock, who has Alzheimer`s Disease. His niece, Angie Holly, and sister, Diana Davis, nominated him for the exceptional care he provides for their mother and grandmother.

When Mrs. Hitchcock was diagnosed with Alzheimer`s Disease and after the death of her husband, her son stepped forward to provide the daily care she needs. He begins the day by bringing his mother breakfast in bed. He then helps her get dressed and always makes sure she looks her best, often coordinating special outfits for holidays and festive occasions. He patiently answers the same repeated questions and he makes sure she gets a walk outside with him as often as possible.

Knowing the importance of family traditions for his mother, Hitchcock continues to host the holidays at her home, often entertaining more than 50 guests at a time.

Over time, Mrs. Hitchcock has forgotten where she lives, how to eat, how to dress, what medications she takes and the names of many friends and family. But she remembers her son. His face and voice are what reassure, calm her, and make her smile.

Hitchcock`s family is convinced that his devotion, good cheer, and dedicated care of his mother, have slowed the progression of the disease. As Ms. Holly said in her nomination: "Everything he does is out of love. There is no definition that can do it justice, but you know it when you see it. There is nothing basic about the care he gives my grandmother every day."