2019 Nominees


Veteran Hero - People's Choice (back to top)

Lt. Col. Sam Sachs

Position: Lieutenant Colonel

Organization: Mom & Dads House Manor


Sam Sachs, who was in WWII and in the Normandy invasion on D-Day 75 years ago, turned 104 years old this year. And if this isn't enough reason to celebrate this amazing veteran hero, Sam just received a major honor on the 75-year remembrance of D-Day.: the French Legion of Honor, that country's highest medal, during a ceremony at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles. Christophe Lemoine, consul general of France, in Los Angeles, told Sam Sachs in a letter that he was being appoint ...

Ron Cabrera

Position: Volunteer

Organization: Marines & Army


Ron has been volunteering with Optimal Hospice since January 2016, recognizing over 50 veterans. Ron not only rearranges his schedule to accommodates our families schedule, but if he is informed of an actively dying veteran Ron drops everything to make that visit happen if at all possible. Ron not only honors our veterans with reading the certificate of appreciation and pinning the american flag on their lapel, but also sits with and talks to the patients and families about their service with th ...


Family Member Hero - People's Choice (back to top)

Brent Deines

Position: Facilities Director

Organization: Alzheimer's Orange County


Whether it’s caring for his parents or taking care of three buildings that serve older adults, Brent does it with a smile and with the upmost integrity a person can have. Just when you think it’s time to relax over the weekend, Brent starts his caregiving role for his now ailing father. After the passing of his mother, Brent made the difficult decision to move his father closer so that he may provide more care. Brent works tirelessly to provide all the social care, support and medical attent ...

Rosa Garza

Position: Family Care Giver

Organization: Family Member Hero


Rosa is such an outstanding family member who takes such compassionate and quality care of her parents as well as the patients in her work. She is always smiling, laughing, doing activities with her parents and patients to keep them laughing, entertained and providing relief to their quality of life. Rosa is non stop taking care of everyone around her.


Volunteer Hero - People's Choice (back to top)

Catherine Aaronson

Position: volunteer

Organization: Cura-HPC


At merely twenty-one years of age, University of Tulsa student Catherine Aaronson knows more about senior care than many will experience in their lifetime. Catherine’s grandmother on her mother’s side experienced detrimental abuse and neglect at the hands of her nursing home caregivers. Additionally, her grandmother on her father’s side also suffered abuse, and she ended up dying from it. With both grandmothers, Catherine helped care for them when alleged professionals failed her family; w ...

Mary Lum

Position: Volunteer

Organization: Fountain Valley & Huntington Beach Senior Centers


Just because 87-year-old Mary doesn’t drive anymore, it doesn’t stop her from volunteering every weekday for the Senior Center Lunch program. Mary is known as “the hip-walking lady” by many who see her on her daily trek sporting her uniform of gloves, long sleeves and a sun-protective hat. After walking a brisk 30 minutes from her home, Mary often joins the 9:00 am exercise class at the Fountain Valley Senior Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays before she helps with set-up and serves food ...


Outstanding Caregiver (back to top)

Faye McKinnon

Position: Caregiver

Organization: CareAssist Services


My husband Mike was diagnosed with advanced cancer last year. Faye McKinnon entered our world during the last week of Mike’s life. Not only was she was a great help to our family; she was literally a godsend. She was hired as a caregiver through CareAssist Services and little did we know that she would be such a tremendous help in a transition that is very hard to face.
The last 12 hours of Mike’s life were the best that they could be because of Faye and her faith in helping. Not only is s ...

Gaylord Café

Position: Caregiver

Organization: All Ways Caring HomeCare


Gaylord can be relied on to handle even the most difficult home situations. For the past 6 years he has been the primary live-in caregiver for a client. When he first met this client, he immediately encountered many obstacles. This client and partner had been turning away every caregiver who was introduced. Gaylord worked immediately to build trust with them, which he did and they allowed him to stay.
When this client's partner became ill, there was an urgent need to complete legal pape ...

John Kabuchwa

Position: Caregiver

Organization: CareAssist Services


Last year my husband Mike was diagnosed with advanced cancer and was enrolled in Hospice care. As his cancer progressed, he became bedbound and I was no longer able to provide the care that was needed. We called Janis At CareAssist Services and they connected us with some very skilled caregivers. John Kambuchwa was one and a very special one.
As I remember those incredibly difficult days, John really stands out in my mind.
Mike was not able to sleep for very long periods of time so he was often ...

Jose Chavez

Position: CNA

Organization: Victoria Health Care


I believe Jose has worked at Victoria for 10 years as a CNA. He takes pride is the skilled nursing facility and wants all the short term patients and long term patients feel at home. He noticed that there weren’t very many outdoor spaces for patient to go so he decided to create outside gardens, benches he made from his own hands and patio area around the facility. He also made a wising well to give seniors hope. He used his own time personal resources with help of the maintenance team to give ...

Lisa Joy Halverson

Position: Caregiver

Organization: None


It has delighted Lisa Joy to find her niche as a “singing” caregiver for the last few years. Her name is so perfect, because Joy is exactly what she brings to many seniors each week who are homebound. She knows her seniors, always picking their favorite songs that will get them singing along. She says Frank Sinatra is usually a hit and many church hymns are familiar favorites as well.

But, Lisa does more than sing – she will take her Seniors on scenic drives, to hair appointments, to the ...

Margaret Nicholson

Position: Certified Home Health Aide

Organization: Kaiser Homecare


Margaret has said that her favorite feeling is when her clients shed tears of joy because it has been months since they have been bathed and cleaned. Her purpose to is to bring dignity back to these beloved people because it is what she would want for herself if she were in such a vulnerable situation. There is no better example of this than presenting the words of one of her patients, so here is a letter written by a very grateful man:
“Healthcare is most appreciated by patients when it is de ...

Miranda Rachelle

Position: Home Care Aide

Organization: Oasis In-Home Care


Heroes can be counted on to appear when seconds count, and when life is on the line. Jay (son of Miranda’s client, Dorothy) shared how Miranda literally came to his mother’s rescue. “Unfortunately I was out of town when I got a call from Miranda that mom wasn’t responding and was acting funny. Miranda had finished up her shift and was saying goodbye to mom as she was walking out the door. She noticed mom staring off and not responding to her as she normally did. She knew something was w ...

Ulisses SIlva

Position: Home Care Aide

Organization: 24 Hour Home Care


Ulisses has been a caregiver for 7 years and has helped so many seniors in the community. He’s the caregiver that was always requested to come back again because he works hard to make a connection with his client’s and provide the help they need. He has worked with the same family for the past 3 years and they consider him “part of the family now”. When he first started working with this particular client the client had just come home from the hospital and had a feeding tube. The doctor� ...

Rudy Bautista

Position: Caregiver

Organization: All Ways Caring HomeCare


During Rudy’s years with All Ways Caring Home Care he gained a client that needed his service on a live-in basis 4 days a week; he has been caring for this client for over 4 consecutive years. He has become very attuned to the client's needs and preferences, often consulting with the care manager and the hospice nurse about ideas to help maintain this patient's comfort and mobility. Constantly incorporating these ideas and solutions into his care plan to maintain a high quality of c ...

Ruth Elisardo

Position: Home Care Aide

Organization: Oasis In-Home Care


“As I lay on my floor for the next several days, I remember telling myself several times that if I can just make it until Tuesday morning, Ruth will be here”. Ruth’s senior client, Lizelotte, recently suffered a fall, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and is now residing in assisted living. She shared her feelings as she remembers back through the last few months, and how Ruth has continued to play such an important role in her recovery. “I fell on a Thursday evening in my bedroom. My s ...

Silei Gago-Jefferson

Position: Personal Care Attendant

Organization: Care Partners


"My experiences with experiences with people helped me decide that I can make a difference in someone's life and that is valuable to me. I have a passion for working with people."


Outstanding Social Worker (back to top)

Alma Miller-Perry

Position: Social Worker

Organization: Optimal Hospice


Everyone that knows Alma knows she is a caring loving and very funny, reliable and trustworthy woman. Alma has always been there for her patients but also very supportive of her co-workers. There is not a single job her co-workers ask of her that she says no to. Alma is full of compassion and she will go above and beyond for everyone she works with as well as her patients and families. Alma has sat with many of her patients at the bedside during their passing, offering emotional support to the f ...

Denise Dupre' Kozak

Position: Social Worker/Case Manager

Organization: Placentia Linda Hospital


A co-worker tells us, “Denise is one of the most caring individuals that I've ever met. She not only does her normal job description, but she goes above and beyond to make sure that every senior and their family understands what is happening. She goes as far as making follow up phone calls to make sure that the patients safely arrived home. If they were transferred to a Skilled Nursing Home, she calls and expects an answer from the facility. She is one of the biggest advocates for seniors ...

Jill Upton

Position: Lead Social Worker

Organization: Irvine Adult Day Health Services


Jill told us, “The story that stays with me the most involves an older and younger adult – both suffering from dementia, and both stole my heart.” She is describing a father and daughter who were participants at the center. The father – “Sam” – had dementia and his wife needed help keeping him active (plus she needed a break herself). But then, their daughter – “Karen” – a 39-year-old graphic artist, married and mother of 2, began suffering from temporal lobe dementia. Jill ...

John Alexander

Position: Case Manager

Organization: Kaiser Homecare


John is not just a case manager, he is an advocate for older adults and an exceptional human being. He focuses on helping connect the senior and family with the correct resources to help them have a life where they can thrive. John doesn’t hand off a case until he has ensured that he has done the best job possible for a positive outcome. This is what makes him stand out from others in his position.

The best way to describe why John deserves this recognition is to just highlight the things tha ...

Lauren Stowell

Position: Director of Social Services

Organization: The Pavilion at Sunny Hills


Lauren truly sees all of her patients and their families as her own family. She builds a bond with them and they often still talk to her and follow up even after being home. We all know being in skilled nursing can be very stressful for the patient as well as their families and Lauren does everything she can to make their experience a little better even if that means just being an ear to listen to. In her own words she said “People remember how your make them feel not necessarily what you say� ...

Lori Davis

Position: Social Worker

Organization: Monarch Health Care, part of OPTUM


Lori is very patient with our members and families. She never seems to get overwhelmed with the hectic pace of the Behavioral Health Program, taking time to understand the member’s needs and concerns. She is very good at follow-up and stays with the member until resolution is found. For example – One member Lori worked with, we’ll call her Susie, was extremely depressed. She felt like her life was spiraling out of control due to her numerous illnesses. She told Lori she wasn’t used to ...

Mona El-Kurd

Position: Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Organization: Hoag CARES/Palliative Care Program


"I NEVER would think to do 90% of the things Mona does everyday for her patients." said a fellow co-worker at Hoag's palliative medicine CARES program. Mona is always on a mission! She does things like finding and establishing a relationship with a mattress store, so that a frail, dying, and bed-less patient could have a proper bed donated to finish her final days. She assisted coordinated a very special outing for a patient with a rare neurological disease so he could see one of ...

Roneet Cooper

Position: Social Worker

Organization: Monarch Health Care, part of OPTUM


Roneet has said that she’s learned so much from the clients she’s served that she really feels they’ve given more to her than she to them. One such client was a woman in her late eighties – we’ll call her Ruth – that resided at the ALF Roneet worked at here in Orange County. Ruth was a holocaust survivor. She had an indomitable spirit, not surprising considering all she’d been through. But, unfortunately, her relationship with her children was very strained, with almost no contact ...

Kathy Valdesuso

Position: Social Worker

Organization: Healthcare Partners


Kathy wins my hero nomination for her relentless work with seniors and the community on Palliative Care and End of Life education, support and commitment to always doing what is in the best interest of her patients. Kathy goes above and beyond by visiting her patients when they are in the hospital, in a nursing home or at their own home when she feels they need extra support and comfort from her. She is such a compassionate, caring lady never forgetting a single person that steps into her offic ...

Steven Sarosy

Position: Supervisor of Social Workers

Organization: Alignment Healthcare


Steven joined Alignment Healthcare in 2014 and pioneered their social service model to provide SW care to elders in their homes, wherever they live. He manages a team of SW, and works with MD's, NP's, PA's and Health coaches throughout California.
Steve is a "go to" person for a multidisciplinary team in California. He frequently travels with an MD or NP to a patients home to meet with a family and explain end of life choices. He is fluent in Spanish, which makes him a ...

Marlene Arellano

Position: HDM Case Manager

Organization: Orange Senior Center


There are many people that have nice things to say about Marlene, but when Julie called in - a client of Marlene's - and feels so strongly about their case manager, we think that’s the best indication of a true “hero.” Julie wanted us to know that Marlene is kind, caring, a good listener and just smiles all the time. She never makes Julie feel like she’s in a hurry or doesn’t have time to really understand what Julie needs or is going through.

Julie has had a difficult life fill ...

Jennifer Baca

Position: Case Manager

Organization: Manor Care Health Services



Mary D. Pettway

Position: Director of Social Services

Organization: Lomita Post Acute Care Center


It takes a special person to be a social worker. Not many people can do what a social worker does, but to be a social worker that goes about any other, that’s special. I’ve known Mary for more than a decade, and every time I come to see her, she takes some time to complain about how busy she is. But her complains are not about the work that she has to do, her complains are about not having enough time to do all the extra things that she wants to do for the patients. She wants to spend more t ...


Outstanding Nurse (back to top)

Adrienne Norquist

Position: Nurse Practitioner - Certified

Organization: Healthcare Partners Torrance


Adrienne always goes above and beyond with her patients. This beautiful, intelligent Nurse Practitioner shows so much compassion for the care and outcome of her patients, knows every patient and family member in their first visit, listens to her patients and families and gives state-of-art care to everyone involved. She works as a community partner and her communication skills far exceed the average healthcare provider. I wish all my kids would grow up to be like Adrienne! She is a miracle wor ...

April Aloiau

Position: DNP

Organization: Sea Crest


I like to call her aloha April because she does a beautiful farewell hula as her patients pass. While working on her doctoral degree in nursing she continued her work with patients and balanced work and family life because patient especially seniors are her passion

Just recently She supported a previous family member through their own hospice journey only as a friend & resource never as a paid professional. She was the RN for her brother who lived with her. When her own diagnosis of cance ...

Cheryl Villasenor

Position: Nurse Practitioner and Manager of Quality Assurance

Organization: Housecall Doctors Medical Group


In the early years of the home-based medical practice, patients -- and sometimes other clinicians -- were skeptical of this type of clinical support. Cheryl faced quite a few obstacles to coordinating and leading in-home care. However Cheryl has always been a strong advocate for her patients and has never been afraid of a challenge! “Being allowed into the intimacy of someone’s personal space is such an honor” says Cheryl. “I enjoy learning about their lives, hearing their stories and ...

G. Jay Westbrook

Position: Clinical Director

Organization: Compassionate Journey


Jay speaks and consults nationally, at both the keynote and breakout levels, on the constellation of issues, surrounding End-Of-Live, and recently has published a powerfully moving book of stories which illustrate the tools he's cultivated in three decades of working with the dying and grieving. Jay is an informative, entertaining and inspiring speaker who presents powerfully on the transformative aspects of suffering and on using suffering to awaken compassion. Jay has served as a consult ...

Giles Ordinario

Position: Case Manager

Organization: Kaiser South Bay


If I have to describe Giles in a few words, I would say that he is; an Innovator, Caring, Respected, and the utmost Honest individual. He has a long track record of success and innovation. This success is not about him, no. Everything he does is to better the quality of care for his senior patients. He was the most crucial driver of the readmission prevention program; A program that was made not only by the hospital staff but most importantly, by the senior care providers. Companies such as SNFs ...

Marietta Mauhay

Position: Case Manager

Organization: UCI Medical Center


There is no better story that encapsulates the dedication Marietta has to her patients than the story of Bob. Bob is an artist/bartender who suffered a stroke. Bob arrived to Marietta's unit facing a new normal that that couldn't be further from his historical day to day. Marietta assisted Bob in finding a Primary Care Physician, something Bob had never had. She fought tooth and nail to get Bob the inpatient care that he needed even when the insurance payers were threatening to cut ...

Nicole Sanchez

Position: Charge Nurse

Organization: SILVERADO


Silverado has the privilege to honor Nicole by nominating her in recognition of her devotion and skills and love provided to the vulnerable population affected by memory impairment diseases. Nicole Sanchez is always proactive and talented; she goes above and beyond providing quality nursing care to ensure resident’s well being and to bring a smile to their face.
A family member once said “My loved one was having a bad day, getting agitated and refusing his blood drawn by a Lab technician. I ...

Vaneza Vargas

Position: LVN

Organization: Universal Health Net


How Vaneza granted a dying senior man's last wish and blessed his family with one of the best days of their lives.
Recently we had a senior hospice patient diagnosed with three brain tumors who was paralyzed on one side of his body rendering him bed bound. He was in a Skilled Nursing Facility but wanted to get home for Father’s Day to be with his sons. His wife was overwhelmed with how to care for him. Universal Health Net paid out of pock and organized a professional caregiver to help th ...


Outstanding Physician (back to top)

Amish Shah

Position: Physician in Charge for Kaiser Permanente Orange County’s Home Care Agency and Living Well Program

Organization: Kaiser Permanente


When making home visits to patients who are homebound with multiple medical problems, Dr. Shah never misses making follow-up phone calls to those same patients and their caregivers to ensure everything is going well. The agency has received numerous compliments and words of appreciation from patients and family members regarding his compassionate, warm, friendly, and professional attitude when he visits patients in their home. One clinician appreciates Dr. Shah’s holistic care approach and not ...

Farshid Kazi

Position: Medical Director, High Risk Programs

Organization: Healthcare Partners


Outcome driven medical director with a proven track record in leadership, health care delivery, and physician management. Strengths include high-risk patient population management, transitions of care, and hospital contracts. Passionate about healthcare technology and a champion for health care innovation.

Currently transforming how DMG approaches its highest utilizers of the healthcare system. Held accountable for bending the cost curve of the 5% of the patient population taking up 50% of OME ...

Jake Koopman

Position: Resident

Organization: College Medical Center


I recently witnessed, for a second time, Dr. Koopman having a conversation with a family and patient of his regarding their goals of care for their loved one and the challenges the family presented. I have to say he brought me to tears with his kind demeanor, compassion of understanding and the way his conversation, over a terminal diagnosis, sounded like an angel. His investment to do what is right for the patient and being such a advocate on behalf of the patient is seldom seen in our healthca ...

Karla Ballew

Position: Medical Director and CEO

Organization: Novari Primary Care


Dr. Ballew is the youngest home-based primary care provider/owner of Novari Primary Care. She has contributed her time and effort in improving geriatric medicine. Despite how far she has gone in life, she continues to teach us caregivers on the art of truly caring for our patients. Her private practice serves our growing geriatric community and I admire her passion in being an expert in dementia care. She inspires future caregivers, nurses, doctors, and allied health professionals through her ge ...

Keyvan Esmaeili

Position: Medical Director

Organization: Hoag Hospital


An important aspect of Dr. Esmaeili’s leadership is the understanding of the team, and supporting nursing, therapy, social work and support staff to achieve quality patient care. He understands the challenges and contributions of every discipline in a rehabilitation team. He works with staff members to influence and enhance their skills and knowledge, supporting them to work at their full potential. Dr. Esmaeili believes every patient has the potential to improve and move closer to functional ...

Michael Tehrani

Position: Physician

Organization: Accessible MDs


Examples of Dr. T’s sincere love for his patients are many, but one certainly stand out to his peers and his staff:

Dr. T was called in to be the new physician for a patient in the hospital who was dying; in fact, she had been told she only had “days to live”. He had never seen this patient before, but between March 1 and March 4, 2018, he became her physician and her hope. Once he saw her charts, he immediately began a battery of tests and determined she had non-alcoholic End Stage Liver ...

Rishi Gupta

Position: Medical Director, Palliative and Hospice Medicine

Organization: St. Joseph Home Health & Hospice


Patients and family members have shared that Dr. Gupta is very caring, and he takes the initiative to answer questions that had not been addressed in the past. They share that he is a wonderful and compassionate physician.
One family, in particular, is especially grateful to Dr. Gupta. This is a very large family, with many members living all over. They all truly wanted to help their mother make some difficult decisions and be able to face the end of her life with dignity, but they just couldn� ...

Roxana Minkus

Position: Physician

Organization: South Coast Family Medicine


Roxana loves working with elderly patients because it allows her to make a difference and extend their lives for the better. She has a great respect for the tenderness of seniors and takes it very seriously that they have chosen her to assist them in their lives, health, family crisis, coping skills, and the changes that we all experience in life. It can be scary going through life’s changes and she always reassures them they are not alone. She wants to be here for them at and reminds them God ...

Linda Hsu

Position: Executive Medical Director

Organization: Optimal Hospice Care


Besides juggling a busy-full time schedule in her office, rounding at several hospitals and SNF's, Dr. Hsu also works as the executive medical director for Optimal Hospice. Her compassion and patience for all her patients is heartwarming. I recently went to her office and witnessed first hand her soft-spoken demeanor with her patients. One patient, in particular, was in a crisis mode with their family and Dr. Hsu was gentle, compassionate and took her time listening to the situation and di ...

Kasein Gonzalez MD

Position: Chief Medical Officer

Organization: Empire Healthcare


While Dr Gonzalez worked as an ER Physcian in Mazatlan, he went above and beyond to save the lives of two naval officers. Dr. Gonzalez enjoyed running along the beaches of Mazatlan on his days off. One afternoon while jogging, Dr. Gonzalez had to act quickly and decisively to save lives. Dr. Gonzalez saw a hotel balcony collapse with two men falling and getting severely injured. Dr Gonzalez ran to their rescue to immediately care for the two men. He also contacted the hospital and ambulance to c ...


Outstanding Executive Director (back to top)

Ameneh Abusafieh

Position: Managing Director

Organization: Universal Health Net


n the capacity as senior placement specialist for seniors, I have worked with Ameneh and her team on many hospice cases. I have always found Ameneh to be the most compassionate and nurturing nurse and witnessed so many incidents of how she goes above and beyond to make a difference to her patient’s lives. A recent example is where a senior male was quickly diagnosed with only months to live and was refused hospice services by three other companies because he didn’t qualify for benefits. This ...

Dean Gunnell

Position: Executive Director/Administrator

Organization: Broadway By The Sea


About a year ago, I walked into Broadway By The Sea and there was this gentleman greeting everyone as they walked into the facility with a handshake, welcoming them and introducing himself. I was so impressed and thought to myself, who is this man and where did he come from? WOW! It was Dean Gunnell, the new administrator and I was overwhelmed with his compassion towards people that came into his facility. I learned that Dean loves helping others as there are so many choices people have regardin ...

Hollis Parmely

Position: Program Director

Organization: Irvine Adult Day Health Services


Hollis credits her personal and professional experience caring for seniors as the best basis for guiding her team at the ADHC. It lets her both understand the needs of the participants, and how to best collaborate with other professionals at the Center to assure we deliver superior, person centered care.

One of the best illustrations of Hollis’ love for seniors came from her time as a care manager. She had a client referred to her by a skilled nursing facility who had initially been thought t ...

Ivonne Meader

Position: Executive Director/Owner

Organization: Mom and Dad Board & Care Homes


One of the greatest stories Ivonne shares is of Sam, her dear 104-year-old resident. He came to Ivonne's Mom and Dad Manor with two broken arms, pneumonia and “defeated” by his current circumstances. After spending some time with him, she learned the wide array of experiences that he had to share with the world, including but not limited to, being part of the Glider attack in Normandy during D-Day and helping set free the people in a concentration camp during WWII. Ivonne understood, t ...

Michelle Wulfestieg

Position: Executive Director

Organization: Southern California Hospice Foundation


It is one of those end-of-life wishes that inspired me to nominate Michelle. She had been contacted about Pedro John, a 62-year-old man dying of colon cancer. John, who worked as a pavement installer, has endured one setback after another over the past few years — starting with a stroke followed by a heart attack. Eight months ago he was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer. Since then, his weight has dropped from 245 to 106 pounds. Chemotherapy made him “feel terrible,” John said, witho ...

Nohemy Robles

Position: Executive Director

Organization: Sunflower Gardens


for 30 years Nohemy has been in various roles in senior living; and helped open two different assisted living communities. She is especially known for going above and beyond the call of duty to help seniors and their families. There are so many great stories we could tell but here is a recent one that really shows her level of kindness for mankind. Recently, she drove the Sunflower Gardens bus with our Activities Director, Daniela, from Santa Ana to San Diego to assess, prepare all necessary ...

Sadie Harnes

Position: Executive Director

Organization: Belmont Village Senior Living Aliso Viejo


Although Sadie is an Executive Director and doesn’t have as much direct contact with the residents because of administrative duties, she still makes a point to interact with them as much as possible. One day last year one of her residents passed away – we’ll call him “Harry.” As we all know, it is very traumatic for the other residents who may have been close to someone when that person dies. They not only see their circle of friends growing smaller, they see their own mortality. So, w ...

Vicki Hallaian

Position: Administrator

Organization: Optimal Hospice


Vicki works every day to build an outstanding team of clinicians, social workers, chaplains and volunteers as a team to create an environment for the community like no other. Vicki has succeeded in building a strong staff all dedicated to the same goal to provide the community with excellence in care for the terminally ill patients and their families. For this reason, I nominate Vicki as Outstanding Executive Director for Senior Serv.

Gabriela Garcia

Position: Executive Director

Organization: Mom's Retreat Recuperative Care


Gabby started Mom's Retreat Recuperative Care to serve the senior homeless population about a year and half ago. she wanted to be the advocate for those who were unable to care for themselves and provide a safe haven for them to recover and to help transition them for independent living by giving resources for shelters and jobs. she has even hired a few member who graduated from our recuperative care program.

I recall Mrs. Smith who was admitted to Mom's Retreat after being hospitali ...

Stephen Zimmerman

Position: COO

Organization: AEC Living


Lauren Zimmerman Cook and Stephen Zimmerman are the brother and sister team behind AEC Living, a group of independently operated senior living communities, a 55+ cohousing community, a home health agency and a Medicare-approved rehabilitation agency. Lauren and Stephen strongly believe in the continuum of care, emphasizing the “care” portion of what they do. The duo’s attention is always focused on customer service and prolonging peoples’ independence. They are helping the community achi ...

Lauren Zimmerman-Cook

Position: CEO

Organization: AEC Living


Lauren Zimmerman Cook and Stephen Zimmerman are the brother and sister team behind AEC Living, a group of independently operated senior living communities, a 55+ cohousing community, a home health agency and a Medicare-approved rehabilitation agency. Lauren and Stephen strongly believe in the continuum of care, emphasizing the “care” portion of what they do. The duo’s attention is always focused on customer service and prolonging peoples’ independence. They are helping the community achi ...

Cesar Delgado

Position: Senior Services Executive

Organization: A New Day Home Care


Cesar Delgado, Jr. writes: “When I think of my dad, there are a few words that come to mind: selfless, committed, and courageous. It takes a lot of courage and strength to make it out of East Los Angeles while being the youngest of 14 kids and the first to graduate from high school. It took hard work and commitment to stay on the right path. Since having a family, he provides a positive, uplifting home; he has been pretty successful at that as well. Growing up he has told us, ‘Be kind, cour ...

Maria Ash

Position: Owner/Executive Director

Organization: 24-Seven Home Health


A hero is described as someone who, looking past themselves, comes to the aide of those in need. Maria’s staff describe her has caring, full of compassion and self sacrificing. Addressing her patient’s needs are Maria’s primary focus. This dedication to care was demonstrated recently during a visit to a new patient’s home. It quickly became clear that the family’s electricity had been shut off, as they were trying to use ice chests to keep milk and other perishable items from spoilin ...


Outstanding Senior Care Professional (back to top)

Brett Paterson

Position: Chaplin

Organization: Universal Health Net


One moving example where Brett’s commitment and willingness to go above and beyond to change a senior patient’s life for the better was witnessed recently with an ALS patient. This senior hospice patient was once a very active and fit man, riding his motorcycle and working on Hollywood movie sets until he was stricken suddenly with ALS. The patient, wife and Autistic son were struggling each in their own ways - emotionally, physically, spiritually, with the diagnosis of a non-treatable disea ...

Cristina Quezada

Position: Residential Care Manager

Organization: Brand New Day HMO


Cristina told us a story that has stayed in her heart and points to what kind of hero she is. A gentleman, we’ll call him Pat, moved into one of the residential facilities where she worked some years ago. He moved in with his wife, who had dementia. She told us they were like the couple in the movie, The Notebook. They were Irish, and he loved to sing to his wife and Cristina would come and sing with them – their favorite song was Wild Irish Rose. Soon, the wife had to move to the memory car ...

Dan McConnell

Position: Physician Assistant

Organization: GeissMed


Dan had the opportunity to serve a particular patient – let’s call him “Joe” - that really stayed in his heart. He shared this story:

“I traveled to a board and care in Tustin to treat a patient that was new to me but not to our practice. This patient was nearly non-verbal and had a blank stare the majority of the time. The wife was there and she was ever so faithful in caring for her husband who was in his early 70’s - quite young in comparison to the rest of the population we se ...

Jessica Bacca

Position: Director of Sales

Organization: Sunrise Senior Living


Gerontology was always a passion of Jessica’s throughout her professional and personal career. The start of it came from her relationship with her grandfather. He was diagnosed with advanced Parkinson’s. He had a bad fall, broke his hip and proceeded with the care of a rehabilitation facility in Orange. She visited often, and assisted him with small tasks and kept him company, bringing joy to his day. She said, “If being present and keeping him occupied brought this much happiness, I wante ...

John M. Owings

Position: Director

Organization: Helping Hands Relocation


John is a retired Marine who found his passion in the senior care industry. In 2001 he established Helping Hands Relocation a boutique relocation company to help with the transition for senior from home to assisted living. Since then, he has been looking for ways to innovate and change the top care industry. Shortly after entering the senior care sector, John established the first email system and online calendar of networking events for senior care professionals. This was a significant change a ...

Kelli Kawashima, PA

Position: Physician Assistant for Care Anywhere

Organization: Alignment Healthcare


Kelli is a hero for a vast number of members in the San Jose area. She works along side a team who all provide excellent care to seniors in need, but she goes above and beyond every day. Whether it is to make a late day visit to someone needing an over the counter medication and has no way to get it, or if someone needs a treatment given at 6:00 in the evening. She does it with a smile and a truly serving heart.
On a personal note, she was the one to not only take me to the ER when I was traini ...

Michael Bender

Position: Director of Resident Engagement

Organization: Silverado Memory Care


Michael has a heart like no other person I know. He gives love 100% of the time to 100% of our residents. He has the ability to creatively find solutions for residents who may be sad, agitated, or anxious. As the Director of Resident Engagement at Silverado Memory Care, Michael has made it his mission to find purpose for all of our residents despite their dementia diagnoses. He spends his own time taking residents to go shopping to create a sense of "normalcy" for them. For some of the ...

Mickey Wade

Position: Owner, Placement & Referral Specialist

Organization: Senior Living Options of California.


For over 20 years, Mickey was her own mother’s steady rock, advocate, and caregiver. The time came when staying home alone would no longer be safe and Mickey, of course, took her mother into her own home to care for her for over 4 years. Eventually this became too difficult and another living situation was needed. Despite her expertise, the role of a daughter
finding care was very different than the professional one and brought her further perspective in the emotional maze that families work t ...

Norma Castellano

Position: Latino Program Coordinator

Organization: Alzheimer's Orange County


Norma has a heart for serving others. Being a full time caregiver is one of the most demanding jobs anyone could have. She truly wishes that the wider community understood the true value of caregivers.She’s committed to improve the quality of life of all families and loved one’s affected by Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. She is so grateful of reaching out the Latino Community and educating on what services are available to the families, thus reducing stress and burnout of Latino ...

Jill Paulson

Position: Area Director of Development

Organization: Optimal Hospice


Pretty much said in the above description, however when I asked one of her co-workers, she stated Jill does a lot of free community education to seniors, nursing homes, hospitals and other places on what we all need to talk about, the importance of having a good death. Jill bought us some books and movies to watch as well which really helped with the passing of my momma. Jill also volunteers at some senior centers per her coworker, supports many organizations with animals, seniors and the less f ...

Maricel Nepomuceno

Position: Director of Community Relations

Organization: A Right Place for Seniors


One great example of this gift was an interaction with an elderly woman and the family at a skilled nursing facility. As the woman showed signs of agitation and behavioral issues, the nurses and social workers were warning Maricel that it would be a tough placement. Along with an overwhelmed family member, it only added more frustration to the nurses and social workers. What they didn’t know was that Maricel has a magical way of addressing even the most agitated patient. Her soft-spoken way an ...

David Berg

Position: Spiritual Care Coordinator

Organization: Optimal Hospice


Here is Davids story: I met Ed and his son in one of my “Navigating Life’s Changes” support groups. Ed was experiencing early stages of Dementia and had to move into a facility. His wife still lived at home and refused to move in with Ed, saying it would be impossible to live with him as she would become his caregiver. She wants to “have a life” and not be a caregiver. She is very independent and feels if she moves into a facility, she will also become dependent. Ed feels their marriag ...

Susana Harris

Position: Manager of Care Delivery

Organization: 24 Hour Home Care


Susana is a difference maker. I define a Difference Maker as an individual who sees themselves outside of their daily job responsibilities and instead sees the difference to be made in the lives of their seniors, caregivers, coworkers, and community. Susana truly embodies this definition. She is thoughtful and caring. She works tirelessly, often times very late hours, to ensure that both her team and her clients are satisfied. She provides management over a special group of dozens and dozen ...

Nathaniel Nalam

Position: Director of Case Management

Organization: 123 Home Care


Nathaniel is an exceptional leader and is greatly admired by the collective Care Management team. He takes it upon himself to provide all of the resources that the team needs to be in the best position to succeed. This often requires him to commit time to the organization on weekends and late into the evenings. This leadership style has directly affected those below him who are also managing a team and has a tremendous impact on the organization as a whole. Nathaniel prides himself on effectivel ...

Anne Janssen

Position: Volunteer Coordinator

Organization: Optimal Hospice


Now Anne is the Volunteer Coordinator at Optimal Hospice and her main objective is to provide volunteer services for all of the hospice families in need, whether providing caregivers, respite, reiki therapy, pet therapy, companionship or a haircut by our licensed volunteers with a loving, compassionate heart. She works relentless hours and always puts the families and patients first.

For Anne, the best part of her job is getting to meet our patients and families and helping them through their ...

Jacqueline Sobral

Position: Business Development

Organization: 123 Home Care


Jacqueline consistently goes above and beyond her job description when working with her clients as well as with her community and medical center partners. 123 Home Care will often assist our community partners with supplemental staffing whenever they have a shortage of team members to care for their own residences. For the numerous communities that we have served in Orange County, Jacqueline has been an integral part of that process. Not only in initiating the program but also with operations an ...

Clarissa Reyna

Position: Associate Director of Care Management

Organization: 123 Home Care


Clarissa is an exceptional leader and though her job responsibility is centered around managing and coaching her team (which she does extremely well) she is constantly “rolling up her sleeves” to help her team when the workload becomes heavy. She is notorious for taking the more challenging conversations herself and using these as teaching moments for her team. Each time Clarissa has these difficult conversations the client or Qualified Caregivers always seem to have a greater appreciation o ...

Tiffany Phuong

Position: Vietnamese Liaison

Organization: Vitas Healthcare


Tiffany Phuong has tirelessly advocated for the Orange County Vietnamese community in her role as liaison at Vitas Healthcare. She works to educate the local community about the options in care and the services available to people at the end of life. End-of-life care is such a delicate subject in many cultures and often avoided, which unfortunately prevents people from accessing the hospice benefit, a benefit that provides care and comfort for both terminally ill patients and their families. ...

Tom Tankersley

Position: Director of Transportation

Organization: Brookdale Anaheim Hills


Tom brings Positive energy every day to everyone he meets. You know when he has arrived in the building because, as he is walking in the front doors, you can hear him greeting everyone he sees. His humor brightens the lives of the residents. You always see him laughing with them and asking them how they are doing. He enjoys having a men’s coffee and doughnut hour with his men’s group and sharing his collection of Navy artifacts when they get together.
One specific example of Tom’s ge ...

Tyree Ngo

Position: HICAP Counselor

Organization: Council on Aging Southern California


With her compassion to help people in need, most of her time in America has been working for nonprofit agencies that serve low-income, at-risk seniors in the Vietnamese community. As a HICAP counselor and Vietnamese Outreach Specialist for the past 9 years, Tyree has worked tirelessly for the most vulnerable - fighting for their rights and securing access to lifesaving medical care. Each ear, more than 2,000 OC Vietnamese Medicare beneficiaries are counseled personally about their Medicare and ...

Norma Castellano

Position: Latino Program Coordinator

Organization: Alzheimer's Orange County


Norma has a heart for serving others. Being a full time caregiver is one of the most demanding jobs anyone could have. She truly wishes that the wider community understood the true value of caregivers.She’s committed to improve the quality of life of all families and loved one’s affected by Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. She is so grateful of reaching out the Latino Community and educating on what services are available to the families, thus reducing stress and burnout of Latino ...

Cindy Bock

Position: Consultant

Organization: Dignified Dementia Coaching


I frequently recognize deficits in the lifestyle of my clients, who are individuals trying to cope with loss of functioning due to the onset or advancement of memory loss. Families are desperate to help a loved one, and find little solace in knowing that beyond the prescription of some medications to help retard growth of the disease, little can be done.

To ensure stability is only the first step. In my 30+ years in the industry, I find that frequently the bar has been set too low. The best ...

Charisse Gamboa

Position: Patient Advocate

Organization: Sanctuary Transitions and Hospice


Charisse met a resident who was eligible for hospice care while he was living at an Assisted Living Community in Orange County.
This lovely man, we will name, “Bill”, (who did not have any family members present), suffered from malnutrition, a history of bladder cancer, and other infections that made it challenging for him to function the normal ADL.
She was introduced to him by the Community Liaison, who worked very closely with her residents and always catered their every need and requests ...

Izze Perez

Position: Director of Resident and Family Services

Organization: Silverado-Brea


We would like to honor Izze by nominating him for the Senior Care Hero Award, in recognition of his limitless passion for serving individuals living with dementia. At Silverado, Izze regularly finds new ways to reach individuals that others simply could not reach. He combines an electric personality and calming presence to provide older adults with a special environment dedicated to their wellbeing. Older adults feel energized and loved when with Izze. We gathered some thoughts and stories fro ...