National Family Caregiver of the Year Named – Sam Peterson

National Family Caregivers Association, announced Sami Peterson, 50, of Fort Collins, Colo., as the grand prize winner of the third annual National Family Caregiver of the Year award. As the winner, Peterson received $10,000 from Homewatch CareGivers, eight hours of respite care, and a scholarship to Homewatch CareGivers University, which offers courses geared to help caregivers increase their knowledge and skill sets.

Sami Peterson represents the spirit of this award, said Leann Reynolds, President of Homewatch CareGivers. The magnitude of care Sami provides for her son and her father is astounding. The fact that she can provide this level of care while holding down a career is an inspiration and a top reason why our judges voted Sami the National Family Caregiver of the Year.

The National Family Caregiver of the Year award was created by Homewatch CareGivers in 2009 to create awareness around the issues faced by family caregivers, and to nationally recognize one caregiver from the community each year whose story is judged the most compelling by a 10-member industry panel.

Caring for Will and Rob has provided me with many of life-enriching opportunities. It has touched those around me. While it is not always easy, it has truly enriched my life, says Peterson. I want to thank my sister, Lana, for her love and support – and for nominating me for this award. I owe this award to all the people who have been there for me along the way to help me not only survive, but to thrive. I am so very grateful to the National Family Caregivers Association and Homewatch CareGivers for this award and for all the work they do in helping family caregivers.

Peterson provides in-home care for her husband, Rob, 66, who has Huntington’s disease, as well as her developmentally disabled son, Will, who is 17. She also works full time and is active in the weekly Huntington’s Disease Support Group of Northern Colorado.

Reviewing Sami’s story was heartbreaking on the one hand and inspiring on the other, said Susan Lutz, Senior Project Manager, Health and Family Team for AARP. All of the finalists for the award faced intense caregiving situations, which made the final selection difficult, but Sami’s situation was perhaps the most intense. How she manages her husband’s Huntington’s disease while at the same time raising a developmentally challenged teenager is beyond most people’s threshold. She is a deserving winner.

Sami Peterson says that her quest to help her husband and son live better lives has been a challenge especially with regards to the relatively unknown Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and ultimately leads to cognitive decline and dementia. Rob Peterson, whose mother also had Huntington’s, is currently experiencing the full range of Huntington’s symptoms, including dementia. Sami Peterson is determined to find medical answers.

Sami is amazing, says sister Becci McCormack. She has had to fight the system of education, healthcare, insurance and employment to provide an affordable and viable situation for her family. And in doing so, she has tapped into resources others didn’t even know existed.

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