Crossroads Hospice Awards Kathy VanDoros for ‘Caring More’
By Eboni Akins, Special to Sun News
BEACHWOOD - There are countless reasons people choose to become social workers. Yet, for Kathy VanDoros, one motive is attributed to growing up with eight grandparents, which is pretty unusual.
About the rare case of having eight grandparents, it resulted from VanDoros's four grandparents' choices to divorce and remarry. So, to minimize family chaos, VanDoros's parents set the record straight. “My parents said to them, 'You want to see your grandchildren, you're all going to get along, you're all going to come to family gatherings, and that's the way it was,” VanDoros told an audience one morning.
Not to mention she had one great-grandmother. And given the circumstances, VanDoros often assisted her parents with a variety of issues surrounding long-term and elder care. Thus, she realized caring for the elderly just might be her strong suit.
And it was.
Naturally, this explains why VanDoros, who serves as Elder Care Coordinator at The Kabb Law Firm in Beachwood, has worked in the long-term care industry for more than 25 years. She's quite versatile in this industry, having expertise in areas such as Nursing Home and Assisted Living management, resident advocacy, and case management.
VanDoros's overall social work career, however, spans more than 35 years.
She's also been active in the community as an advocate for senior citizens. For example, VanDoros volunteered as a board member for the Akron Area Alzheimer's Association. She has also been a district chair for the Ohio Health Care Association Council of Social Workers. Furthermore, she's been a member of the Senior Network for University Hospitals Health Systems of Bedford.
And on Tuesday morning, March 25, she was honored for her unrelenting service to others at the Courtyard Marriot in Independence. VanDoros was one of 11 recipients across the country to receive what's known as the “Caring More Award,” presented by Crossroads Hospice. Recipients win $500 that can be donated to his or her preferred non-profit. VanDoros chose to gift her money to the Kabb Care Collaborative, a 501c3 dedicated to providing elder care services to the poor and disadvantaged.
In addition to receiving prize money, award recipients are given a breakfast banquet in their honor. Colleagues, family, and friends are normally invited. The five judges responsible for selecting award recipients are also asked to attend.
“Social workers are really hard workers that don't get the recognition,” said Stacie Beck, Executive Director for Crossroads Hospice, at the event. On the Crossroads Hospice website, social workers are referred to as “unsung heroes.”
The Caring More Award is given yearly in March - which is National Social Work Month. Social workers who surpass expectations in making sure their patients are cared for properly are the award's recipients. In February, numerous organizations had the opportunity to nominate social workers they viewed as exceptional employees who lived up to the meaning of “Caring More.” Once candidates were nominated, they were scored by five judges in the areas of Advocacy for Patients, Community Involvement, and Professional Accomplishments.
“Social workers give so much to our patients every day,” reads a section of the award's purpose statement on the Crossroads Hospice website. “But rarely receive special recognition for all they do to connect patients with resources, counsel families, and give people the special time and attention they need.”
And as Elder Care Coordinator at The Kabb Law Firm, VanDoros does just that: connecting, counseling, and most certainly giving.
Since joining The Kabb Law Firm in 2009, she has overseen a caseload of more than 100 clients and their relatives through handling initial assessments, care planning, and implementation. She has served as a voice and liaison for clients who live in nursing homes.
“My favorite part of my job is doing the initial assessments because I learn so much from my seniors,” VanDoros said at the breakfast banquet. “They have very interesting lives. They have so much wisdom.”
Furthermore, Rachel Kabb-Effron, Owner of The Kabb Law Firm, has witnessed the joyful and loving ways VanDoros reaches out to patients, despite the social work industry's tendency to “rely on apathy to move the system forward,” Kabb-Effron explained in the hotel's conference room.
“We all need to care more in this business, and Kathy is always hugging and kissing our clients,” joked Kabb-Effron, causing plenty of chuckles in the audience. “And I'm like, okay, I'm going to warn her, don't do that.” She brought about even more laughter.
Nevertheless, Kabb-Effron said VanDoros's response to her was, “No, because these people don't even have human touch and human interaction.” So, Kabb-Effron credits VanDoros for teaching her how to let down her guard and to be free to – care more.
Social workers are really hard workers that don't get the recognition - Stacie Beck, Executive Director for Crossroads Hospice.
“Kathy is genetically engineered to care for others,” said Kabb-Effron.
And regarding The Kabb Law Firm – it commits to assisting clientele in the areas of Elder Law, Life Care Planning, Public Benefits Coordination, and Estate Planning. It's the first Elder Law firm in Northeast Ohio that decided to add a Social Worker to the team, as well as a Public Benefits Coordinator. According to the firm's website, the reason for this decision was to, “allow us to go to greater lengths to protect and enhance your loved one’s quality of life.”
Subsequently, VanDoros was a Social Worker brought on board by The Kabb Law Firm, who by the way, wasted no time proving just how much she has been willing to “go to greater lengths.”
For instance, a while back, a man in his 50s contacted The Kabb Law Firm. Though he was the caretaker for his elderly parents, his mental illness hindered him from looking after them properly.
“He was struggling with his own mental illness and I think he knew in his heart he wasn't providing what really needed to be provided,” VanDoros explained. So, upon visiting the man's home – with Kabb-Effron one day, VanDoros discovered a heartbreaking sight – his mother was in deep distress, sobbing. She was in her 80s and malnourished partly because her son fed her Wendy's just about everyday. Also, she could barely walk and urgently needed therapy.
Sleep deprivation was also a problem for the elderly woman. Too often, her son woke her at 3 a.m. and brought her downstairs because he was lonesome and suffered from stomach pains.
After learning about the circumstances, VanDoros acted immediately. She took several steps and navigated through channels just to provide help for the mentally-ill patient and his elderly mother. VanDoros even reached out to the man's father, who stayed at a nursing home with terrible living conditions. Because of VanDoros, the elderly father was moved to a better facility.
Soon after, however, the father, in his 80s, passed away. And a short while later, the mentally-ill son passed away while in the hospital because sadly, he had lost the will to live.
As a result, the elderly woman was alone – without family. The Kabb Law Firm took care of funeral arrangements for both men, so the mother could avoid the stress. And it wasn't long before VanDoros established a “unique” relationship with the elderly woman. “We took care of her,” VanDoros said. “I brought her to Thanksgiving at my house. We did everything for her. We bought furniture and set her up in a beautiful private room at a nursing home facility. She would light up when we would come in to see her. She always got her hair done and her nails.”
Eventually the woman passed away. But VanDoros had a peace in knowing “she died being taken care of really well.”
At the March 25th breakfast event, VanDoros sat at one of the eight-seat, rounded tables in the conference room of the Courtyard Marriot in Independence. On one side of her, sat her husband of 36 years, George.
As a man who's known his wife for 42 years, George VanDoros has seen how she goes above and beyond when it comes to doing just about anything for anybody. “She's always been there for me. She loves to see the joy in everyone's lives,” he said.
And on the opposite side of Kathy VanDoros sat her adult, twin daughters – Lindsey and Tiffany. VanDoros also has a grown son who's been in China getting established.
Based on what Lindsey (VanDoros) Yoder saw while growing up, it was evident that her mother was always eager to serve the elderly. “I first saw it with my grandfather when he was ill, and she was the primary caretaker for him,” said Yoder.
Whereas Tiffany VanDoros has been inspired by her mother so much that she, too, decided to enter the social work field. Currently, she works for Summit County Children Services in Akron. “My mother has a very strong work ethic, and she always has. She's always proud to talk to us about her advocacy for clients,” she said.
While thanking everyone in attendance, Kathy VanDoros mentioned how her family has been her inspiration – especially her parents, now both deceased. Her mother was the first one in the family to graduate from college.
And her father, an attorney, was her hero. That's because he gave VanDoros her first lesson on advocacy, a key facet of social work today. Therefore, her dad represents another reason she chose to become a Licensed Social Worker. “Despite his success, he really understood people and did so much more than I realized until after his death,” she said.
All in all, with lessons about advocacy and the experience of caring for eight grandparents – plus one great grandparent, it appears that here and now, VanDoros is right where she's supposed to be. And there are no regrets.
“It's a gift,” said VanDoros. “What I do is a gift.”