“My friends and family call us the ‘Turtle Rescue.’ Any time my kids and I see a turtle trying to cross the road, we rescue it. We stop traffic, one of us watches the right, one of us watches the left and one of us gets the turtle off the road. Some people get really mad at us, but it doesn’t matter, as long as the turtle gets home in one piece!”

As Amada Nashville caregiver Susan Jaco shared her heart through this story over lunch at Maggiano’s Italian restaurant, Amada Franchise’s receptionist Michelle Mendoza, and caregivers Britni Waller and Juanita Molina couldn’t hold back their laughter. Susan’s stories about work, her life and her kids would keep the four of them entertained for the entire weekend of Amada Senior Care Franchise’s 2017 Annual Conference in Costa Mesa, California. Each of these three caregivers were here for an important purpose: their supervisors, all owners of Amada Senior Care businesses in the cities they’d come from – had nominated them to be honored as “Caregivers of the Year.”

On Saturday Michelle took the trio to lunch, an hour-long massage and on a visit to Downtown Disney; an outdoor walking promenade just outside of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. Susan couldn’t stop taking pictures of the palm trees, Juanita snagged the last Star Wars Lego set in the store for her son, and Britni brought “Belle” to life at Build-a-Bear – giving her red hair to match her own. At dinner they chatted with their server John, who made a full three attempts before successfully lighting their Bananas Foster on fire.

“How do you like Amada?” they asked each other over dessert. A glance around could read faces that shared one truth in common: being an Amada caregiver was hard work. Whether one of them had to double-wash a client’s laundry with both vinegar and detergent, or the other worked round-the-clock, each woman told their work story with pride, as if to say, “I work hard. But I’m here, and it looks like it paid off!”

Michelle could attest to that statement. Given her mother’s work as a caregiver, it meant a lot to be able to honor these women. Her role over weekend was to welcome them and ease them into a fun, enjoyable time where they could take the troubles of work off their minds. But the caregivers talked about work more than anything else! It was clear these women derived a deep sense of purpose from their professions.

Susan called her clients “my little man,” or “mama,” and spoke affectionately about earning their trust and giving them care no one else had learned to provide.

“You have to respect every client,” began one of Juanita’s stories, “If a caregiver complains about a client’s pets, for example, it makes the client uncomfortable in their own home. Who wants to feel that way?”

Though Michelle was given the project of guiding and hosting the caregivers during the conference weekend, it was Britni who became the “Mama Bear” of the group. Juanita had suffered from a car accident injury the week before, so Britni made sure her transition into the vehicles they rode around in went smoothly for every ride. When it came time for the group to attend “Awards Night,” Britni factored in time to get herself ready and to do Susan’s hair and makeup as well. All three women looked dazzling, but Susan especially glowed after Britni worked her magic.

Each of these caregivers said the Annual Conference’s awards ceremony was the highlight of their weekend. At the start, several Amada business owners were honored for their business achievements with awards, and others were honored with character awards based on Amada’s six core values.

The final awards were given to the Caregivers of the Year – what Susan, Britni and Juanita had come for – and all of the conference attendees heard the stories that had brought these three women to  Southern California.

You could have heard a pin drop as each business owner described what set apart the caregivers they’d nominated. Moving stories of compassion, self-sacrifice, and an above-and-beyond level of thoughtfulness for their clients brought many to tears as the awards were given. The evening culminated in a standing ovation for the three.

Little did the conference attendees know, a whole other world of stories – stories of daily service and caring – was swimming through each woman’s heart; giving them the courage to stand tall as they received the highest honor Amada Senior Care provides.

“Our caregivers make us who we are. Without the commitment, dedication and love they show our clients, Amada could never have become what it is today.”

– Chad Fotheringham, President, Amada Senior Care Franchise



Caregivers of the Year Britni Waller (left), Susan Jaco (left center), Amada Franchise receptionist Michelle Mendoza (right center), and Juanita Molina (right).





“Caregivers of the Year Honored at Amada’s Annual Conference,” Written by Michelle Mendoza, Amada Senior Care contributor.