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Dick Bondi named New York State’s first Caregiver of the Year

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dick Bondi of Dansville received a statewide recognition for doing — not once, but twice in his life — what he felt was just part of the marriage commitment.

Bondi received the 2011 Caregiver of the Year Award during the inaugural New York State Caregiver and Respite Coalition Conference in Albany on Nov. 17.

November was National Family Caregiver Month.

Bondi’s recognition was one of four HERO Awards bestowed at the conference Caregiver of the Year, Professional Caregiver of the Year, Caregiver Program of the Year and Respite Program of the Year. About 150 people attended the conference.

“It’s humbling,”?Bondi said of receiving the recognition.

Bondi’s first wife, Carolyn, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1983.

As stated in the nomination form for the award, submitted by Noyes caregiver coordinator Dale Sells, the disease, “robbed her of both the energy and will to live; Dick provided both. He never considered requesting or hiring a nurse. This was his wife and they got through 35 years together, they would get through this medical problem together. He cared for Carolyn, providing all the care she needed until she died.”

A few short years later, Bondi met and married his second wife, Mary. After a number of years of marriage, she began showing signs of memory loss. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease about nine years ago.

“We did not know the entire ramifications of Alzheimers back in the beginning,” Bondi said. “We knew it was debilitating, but we did not know all of the challenges that would be forthcoming.”

Bondi took care of Mary as her health slowly declined over the next several years. She died this past August. Caregiving for an Alzheimer’s patient was not easy for the now 86-year-old, and as such, he began to attend an Alzheimers support group at Noyes Hospital. Bondi said that although he was a bit reluctant at first, he found that attending the group was imperative.

“This group is extraordinary,” He said. “As the group grew, it became to me like a family. A lot of private stuff was exchanged, but it was supportive of each other which made it even nicer.”

He said that hearing from people who were caregiving during the latter stages of the disease helped him learn what to do and what to expect.

For the last few months of Mary’s life, Bondi hired a private aid, Eileen Fugle from Conesus, who helped take care of her. Mary was later in a nursing home for about the last 10 days of her life. The financial, emotional and physical toll on caring for an Alzheimer’s patient has led Bondi to become an advocate for Alzheimer’s legislation.

He has approached state and national representatives and was a speaker at a legislative breakfast in Corning earlier this week on encouraging leaders to direct funding toward caregiving support services and programs, long-term care needs and options, and for scientific research.

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