2013 Nominees Section

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Peter Pham

Peter Pham

Position: Care Provider

Organization: Independent


Why should this person be nominated? (What makes nominee unique; why should they be selected the winner of this category?
On Christmas day of 2002, my father was rushed to the hospital by the ambulance. After many tests and diagnosis, the neurosurgeon had to perform surgery to stop his internal bleeding in the brain. He just suffered a stroke. All the doctors thought my father has 20 percent of survivability. Even if he would survive, half of his body would be paralyzed. After a month in the Intensive Care Units and another month in physical therapy, the doctor prescribed nursing home care for my father due to stroke, dementia, Alzheimer, dysphasia and limited mobility.
Peter at that time was working in Gulfstream, a private jet production company. He lived a very comfortable life and traveled around the world for business and leisure from Western Europe to South America. When my father was hospitalized, he came to the hospital every day after work to care for him and to discuss my father’s situations with the doctors. After knowing the doctors’ intention to send my father to the nursing home due to his severe illness, Peter wanted to care for my father at home so my father could die with dignity and surrounded by his loving family members.
As a stroke survivor, my father’s behavior and his mood changed abruptly. During the first six months, we had to change ten caregivers. No one could tolerate my father’s psychotic behaviors. Peter took a great step up and made an important decision for my father’s life. He decided to quit working to care for my father full time. His philosophy behind this sacrifice was very simple: unconditional love and compassion.
A year later, my mother was hospitalized due to her dementia, paranoia, and Parkinson. Her physical and mental weakness prevented her from simple to important decisions, such as wearing clothes to taking medications. After being discharged from the hospital, my mother’s independent became near zero with limited mobility. Once again, another duty added to Peter’s life. He became a primary care for both my mom and my dad.

What is this nominee’s involvement in senior care or senior issues
My father was in the military. Most of his time was in the war zone. He was a warrior! Later he earned his degree as accountant through military education. He was a financial controller, who handled entire salary payments for a large military base of 20,000 people. Now with his dementia and Alzheimer his brain works as if he was three years old with delusion. He wonders outside of his apartment to fight with his (invisible) enemy and demands cash for him to pay salaries for his Army division.
My mother was a business and a house wife. She gave birth to seven children; not counting the one who passed away and many miscarries. She was an active lady and raised her children almost by her own while her husband was far away in the war zone. In order to provide an excellent education for all of us, she had her own business to add extra incomes to my father’s fixed military salary. After a fall of Vietnam in 1975, communist government took control and forced many families out of their houses to live under undeveloped regions without food and water. This area was called new economic region. My mom became a farmer to feed us. At the same time, she and my father planned to escape Vietnam to find freedom in a new country. All the hardships at that time came back to haunt her through her hallucinations due to side effects of Parkinson medications.
Peter is not a professional in term of caring for people with Alzheimer, dementia and Parkinson patients. To overcome this obstacle, he has to read many books and to research on internet regarding medication side effects, to find medical assisted equipment tools to enhance my father and mother nobilities, such as to ensure safety for the house with minimizing falling, to entertain my parent with newspapers, magazines, TV, fake money for my father to count, a tent for my mom to sleep like when she was in a refugee camp. Peter learns to cook puree food for dysphasia patient and to change my mom’s diapers. With his electronic background, he installed the surveillance and alarm systems, similar like the one in hospitals, to watch my father and mother 24/7. But one thing Peter could not do is to explain my father and mother the reality they are living in. If one already has experience with dementia and Alzheimer patients, one should know that common senses or logical thinking are long gone for those patients. Sometimes my father demanded Peter to strip out all his clothes to find out whether or not Peter took my father’s money and hide it! As Alzheimer patient, my father could not realize day or night. He could sleep during the days and stay awake during nights or wondering at nights as if he was fighting in the battle field. In the same time, my mother could ask to carry her, like a baby, to the bathroom, ten to twenty times a day when her muscles become stiff. These episodes make caregivers exhausted and depressed easily.
Looking back of more than eleven years, it is a long journey for Peter to care for my mother and father. It is immeasurable for all great things that he has been offering for them. Instead of choosing the easy way out, Peter is sharing his longevity with my parent. His unconditional love and compassion have sharpened my understanding of love, the value of life and compassion. Instead of choosing a normal life with career, wife, and children, Peter has chosen a more challenging life to live. He understands that life is a precious sacred gift and he is providing that gift to my mom and dad.
In the last eleven years, I haven’t written down my appreciation for Peter. I would like to take this opportunity not only to honor him but also to let him know deeply in my heart I value and treasure everything that he has been done for my mom and dad.
“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action” Mother Teresa
“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” Mother Teresa