In August 2007, Gincy Heins became the caregiver for her dad after her mother passed away unexpectedly. He had a pacemaker and had suffered from several TIAs, no longer drove, and couldn’t live by himself. He moved to California to live with Gincy, her husband and their sixth grade son where he stayed for a few months before moving to a senior apartment close by.
The 25 months between when Gincy’s mom and dad passed away included hospital and rehab facility stays before he was enrolled in hospice. Three days after Gincy’s mom’s birthday, when her dad told her he was dying, he passed peacefully in his apartment with Gincy, her husband, Steve, and the hospice nurse by his side.
Just shy of her 49th birthday, Gincy thought her caregiving days were over for at least 30 years. Instead, on her 49th birthday, Steve got lost driving in their area. Since their son who was now in junior high was with him, he got home safely. This experience started two months of testing and doctor visits resulting in Steve’s diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment at the age of 55.
By her own admission, Gincy was not a very good caregiver for her dad. Looking back, she says that was probably in part because they were both grieving her mother, but not talking about it. Fortunately, Gincy learned from that first experience, and after stumbling initially, has managed to survive and thrive as Steve’s caregiver and the mother to their son, now in law school.
While still having good days and bad, Gincy has grown by helping others. She volunteers with Alzheimer’s Orange County and has spoken on panels at the 18th and 20th Southern California Alzheimer’s Disease conferences. She was selected as the 2016 Alzheimer’s Orange County Visionary Women Family Caregiver Award Honoree, and has been a nominee for the Senior Care Hero Award and WEGO Health Activist Award.
Gincy is one of the co-authors of the 365 Caregiving Tips series which covers Practical Tips from Everyday Caregivers, Travel and Respite, and Hospitals, Care Facilities and Hospice. She is also the creator and editor of Before the Diagnosis: Stories of Life and Love Before Dementia, an anthology of stories by 36 authors, each about a relative they have known and loved before that person was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Over 90% of the profits from the sales of the book are donated to four nonprofit organizations that assist people with any type of dementia, and their families.
Currently Gincy is working with Alzheimer’s Orange County on a Caregiver Conference she suggested. The conference is taking place in April 2020.