Sheridan florist named 2019 Caregiver of the Year

POSTED: April 10, 2019

When Jim “Bob” Mitchell was diagnosed with cancer in spring 2018, it never occurred to Lori Christy that she wouldn’t be there anyway she could. She took him to doctor’s appointments, helped him with his bills and around the house and more recently, helped him transition to a senior living community in Carmel. Lori is as much as Bob’s advocate as his friend.

When she learned she was being named CICOA’s Caregiver of the Year, Christy insisted she doesn’t – and couldn’t – do it alone.

Christy is the second non-relative to earn the annual honor for CICOA, the nonprofit that provides services for low-income seniors and adults in Central Indiana. In Christy’s eyes, Mitchell has always been family.

He was best friends with her parents, Alan and the late Vickey Lyon, and has been a part of the family since Mitchell moved back to Sheridan more than 30 years ago when he was first diagnosed with cancer. He recovered and had settled back into life in his hometown with his mom. After she died more than a decade ago, he struggled with depression. Christy was there to encourage him to get out. It wasn’t unusual for Mitchell to join Christy, her husband Nick and their children, Cort and Maddi for lunch or dinner or just hang out.

Christy jokes that Mitchell was like have a 60-year-old kid.

“He really enjoyed living life and being fun,” Christy said. “He didn’t want anything to ever be serious.”

When Christy opened her business, Elsie’s Flower Shoppe in Sheridan, Mitchell often went with her on deliveries or helped her set up for funerals. Christy didn’t want him sitting alone at home, especially in the winter, when the golf course where he worked wasn’t open. It’s what friends do. It’s what families do to help each other.

Friend turned caregiver

The role of friend turned to the role of caregiver in March 2018, when Mitchell became ill. When doctors couldn’t find a diagnosis, Christy insisted Mitchell be transferred to Methodist Hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with internal bleeding, a non-functioning kidney and cancer in the other kidney. Christy was there to help Mitchell make the difficult decision to have kidney surgery, something that was risky, because of his severe vascular disease. However, it was his only chance of staying off permanent dialysis. While hospitalized, Mitchell suffered from multiple strokes. While Mitchell is now cancer-free, the strokes have left him unable to care for himself.

An inspiration

Mitchell’s older brother John, who lives in North Carolina, calls Christy an angel for all that’s she done. Jean Ross, a nurse who now helps care for Mitchell, calls Christy an inspiration.

“I come across many caregivers that inspire me, but Lori Christy has taught me what it truly means to be a caregiver advocate,” Ross said. “The world can be a scary place when a health crisis sneaks up.”

Christy and sisters Jamie and Jessica Wallace – also longtime friends with Bob Mitchell – took turns staying with him around the clock when he was in the hospital and unable to understand what was happening or communicate with doctors.

“Lori Christy and some of her friends immediately stepped in to do everything needed to address Bob’s health concerns and to keep me informed of his condition and needs,” John Mitchell said. “Day in, day out, she inspires me and the rest of us around my brother to do and be our very best.”

Elder orphans

Christy’s story highlights the issue of elder orphans, people like Mitchell who do not have relatives nearby to rely on. According to the AARP, 23 percent of Baby Boomers will be without family caregivers living nearby. For those individuals, people like Christy become their only advocates to ensure they get the care and help they need.

That can mean all kinds of duties. Lately, it’s meant stopping by to see him and bringing along the fast food he craves. It’s what gives Mitchell joy, and for right now, that’s all Christy and the Wallaces are focused on providing for their beloved friend.

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