HER MAGAZINE

Caregiving brings rewards, stress, says Kathy Good, a HER Women of Achievement honoree

Mercy's Tim Charles asked her to help with caregiver center

“My overarching goal is to reduce the stress of family caregivers and help them be healthier,” says Kathy Good, director of Family Caregivers Center of Mercy. (The Gazette)
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Kathy Good’s work as the volunteer director of Family Caregivers Center of Mercy is informed by her own journey as a family caretaker.

In 2003, Good and her husband, Dave, a district court judge, were looking forward to retirement when Dave started having vision problems.

After new glasses and cataract surgery failed to provide relief, Dave was diagnosed with the visual variant of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 56 years old.

“He lived for 12 more years,” Good said. “He spent eight years at home and four in a care facility.”

Good, who had spent her career working as a social worker, educator and mental health counselor, became her husband’s primary caretaker, learning firsthand the challenges faced by people who are caring for family members with chronic conditions.

“Caregiving has many rewards, but also is very stressful and isolating,” she said.

In April 2014, Tim Charles, president and CEO of Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, approached Good to ask for her help in establishing a family caregiver center.

“I think he thought I didn’t have anything to do,” she said with a laugh.

Good recently had retired from her private counseling practice and was volunteering at Hallmar, a nursing care facility located within Mercy Medical Center where her husband was a resident.

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Recognizing a need in the community for a central location where caregivers could go for support and resources, she took Charles up his offer.

Good’s efforts to launch the center included, among other actions, conducting discovery interviews with more than 100 caregivers, leading a feasibility study and pitching the idea at Startup Weekend Cedar Rapids.

The center opened in December 2015, just a few months after Good’s husband died. “It helped me deal with my grief,” she said. “Dave died in May 2015 and I rolled right over into this.”

The center was the first community-focused caregiver center in the country, meaning its services are offered to caregivers regardless of hospital or physician affiliation.

These services include one-on-one counseling with caregivers, support groups, educational events and volunteer respite care services.

“I am most proud of being able to co-create this with Tim Charles,” Good said. “It was his idea but he was so open to my ideas, and together we created something that meets a real need in the community.”

In its first three years of existence, the center welcomed 8,711 visitors, made 1,883 one-on-one contacts with caregivers, and held 699 educational events.

The center is led and run by volunteers.

Good serves as the center’s director on a volunteer basis, logging more than 10,000 hours of unpaid service to the center as of year-end 2018.

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“My overarching goal is to reduce the stress of family caregivers and help them be healthier,” she said.

Good does not struggle in finding a positive outcome to her personal caregiving journey.

“If Dave Good hadn’t been living with dementia and if Tim Charles hadn’t known about it, this center may not have come to be.”

Business 380 is spotlighting HER magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.

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