Joyce Skopik was nominated for the 2019 Dr. Donna Wilson Caregiver Award by Lisa Andrews. Lisa is a social worker at Dulcina Hospice in Calgary and came to know Joyce while Joyce’s husband and mother were patients at Dulcina. Lisa tells Joyce’s story:
Joyce’s husband, Rick, was diagnosed with amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in February 2014. Rick was the kind of guy who loved life, made the most of it, and always left a smile on people’s faces. Even well into the progression of ALS, Rick did his absolute best to enjoy life and to help people around him feel appreciated.
Walking into Rick’s room, you would be greeted with a wave of his foot and a smile that would forever be printed on your heart. Despite using an iPad and joystick to communicate, Rick typed a beautiful letter, individually thanking the people in his life. That letter ended with Rick giving special thanks to his wife, Joyce, for always giving of herself and putting Rick’s needs above her own.
I am nominating Joyce because I feel that throughout her life, she has been caring for others. I got to know her while Rick was at Dulcina Hospice. I learned that in addition to taking wonderful care of Rick, Joyce was a teacher and taught special needs children while lovingly raising two adopted children. Joyce also cared for her mother (who died at Dulcina Hospice only three months after Rick died).
Joyce physically took wonderful care of the people in her life. Joyce cared for Rick and kept him at home for as long as she was physically able. A large part of really caring for Rick was understanding his need to have a good time. Joyce did her best to assist Rick with his “crazy plans.” Joyce understood that Rick loved parties and he loved hosting parties. Rick knew his end was approaching and wanted to have a Grey Cup party for his friends. He didn’t allow being in a hospice change his plans. With Joyce’s help, Rick managed to throw a beautiful Grey Cup party, complete with all of his favourite dishes, for all of his friends, family and the Dulcina staff. Joyce understood Rick’s desire to bring joy and fun to others (and his love for food, despite the fact that he could no longer eat) and wanted to make it happen.
Joyce has her own significant health concerns which affect her mobility and energy level. Joyce was also dealing with her own sadness, worries and fears about Rick’s decline. On countless occasions, Joyce put her own needs on the back burner to bring joy and fulfilment to Rick. Joyce came to the hospice to be with Rick daily, despite being physically fatigued, often in pain, and full of worry.
Joyce was always pleasant and caring to staff and those around her. We knew that she must be having a hard time, but she always stopped to say hello and to share something positive. Joyce also devotes time to angel work and gave special gifts of letters to several staff.
Joyce always did what was best for Rick. I was most struck by Joyce’s ability to be present with Rick when he decided to remove his life-sustaining equipment. Joyce knew that Rick could not stay alive on his own, without his equipment. She was scared and not ready to say goodbye. Though this would be the most difficult thing Joyce has ever experienced, she stayed with Rick until his very last breath. This act in itself shows her level of devotion for Rick and that she always kept his best interest at heart.
The staff at Dulcina are forever changed after knowing Rick and Joyce.
AHPCA is honoured to present Joyce Skopik with the Dr. Donna Wilson Caregiver Award for 2019.