2015 Caregiver of the Year Milana Riggs Keeps Promise

POSTED: April 13, 2015

Milana Riggs has made good on that promise, not only caring for Mr. and Mrs. Bradley for 10 years but becoming like a daughter and a friend to them.

Charlene and Milana were neighborhood friends since age seven — the inseparable kind. Charlene didn’t want her parents to have to live in a nursing home and asked her friend if she would take care of them.

“Honey, piece of cake, of course I will,” Milana promised.

Nearly 10 years after her passing, Charlene’s brother in Atlanta called upon Milana to help his mother while Mr. Bradley was in a rehabilitation facility. Milana agreed and has been helping the family ever since.

An Adventure Begins

A restauranteur and a chef before retiring from the airline industry, Milana had catered for such stars as The Rolling Stones and Elton John. She brought that same sense of adventure when caring for the Bradleys.

“I engaged them in life,” said Milana. “We tried new things that they’d thought about, but didn’t do.”

They stopped for sodas at the chocolate shop on Monument Circle, visited the L.S. Ayres Tearoom and the Indiana Roof Ballroom and went off-track betting. They talked about the past, about film stars and music from their era.

“I also gave them a sense of the future,” said Milana.” We discussed gay rights and other issues of the day and watched BBC news programs.”

Saying Goodbye

Over time Mrs. Bradley’s dementia progressed, and Mr. Bradley became more fragile. And in 2011, at the age of 101, just four days after celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary, he passed away with his wife and Milana by his side.

“His passing was beautiful and sweet,” Milana remembered.

Mrs. Bradley then moved into Milana’s house,where she could enjoy the flower gardens and socializing with neighbors.Today, at 103, breast cancer and other ailments have slowed herdown, but she still made it to the White River Yacht Club for St. Patrick’s Day where guests doted on her.

“We laugh every day and have fun doing nothing,” said Milana. “I will know when it is her time, when she no longer finds joy in her life.”

As Milana prepares to say goodbye, she credits her Serbian heritage for her commitment to the Bradleys. “We are a strong people. We believe in valor, integrity and loyalty to the death. When you give a promise, you do it no matter what the cost.”

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