A helpful hand: McCordsville caregiver honored by state agency

MCCORDSVILLE — There are two things April Pompei is sure of at the end of each day.

The first is that her 86-year-old father — despite his age and Alzheimer’s — is content and sleeping safely in a room just down the hallway of her McCordsville home. The second is that without the helpful hand of her son, that first bit might not be reality.

Pompei’s 22-year-old son, Grant Newton, has for the last three years served as the primary caregiver for his grandfather. The hard work he puts in each day was recognized recently by a state organization dedicated to the care of senior citizens; Newton was honored as one of 10 finalists for the nonprofit’s annual caregiver of the year award, a recognition given to an unpaid caregiver living in one of the eight counties the agency serves.

Though Newton did not win the top prize, his sacrifices are no small matter, officials said; he’ll be recognized along with the other finalists at a luncheon later this month.

Newton can calm his grandfather, Vernon Parmerlee, when no one else can, Pompei said. In the years since Parmerlee came to live with them in 2014, the two have developed an unbreakable bond, she said.

Newton was a senior in high school when Parmerlee moved in with the family.

As he started planning his future, Newton watched his parents struggle with the new responsibilities, schedules and adjustments that came with caring for Parmerlee. So, one afternoon, he came to his parents and told them he wanted to take college classes while still living at home. This way he could help them take care of the man he calls his Poppy.

After graduation, Newton became Parmerlee’s primary caregiver while juggling an Ivy Tech Community College class schedule, participating in community theater and working late night shifts at a part-time job.

Those sacrifices, outlined in the nomination form filled out by his mother, drew the attention of leaders at the council on aging and earned Newton’s recognition, said Dana Robinson, a spokeswoman for the organization.

The Central Indiana Council on Aging accepts nominations for caregiver of the year from residents living in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion, Morgan and Shelby counties. Typically, it’s a spouse or child who has stepped up to care for an aging loved one, Robinson said.

But Newton breaks the mold in many ways, she said. Though the family’s story fits the familiar pattern of a parent coming to live with their child, seeing Newton — a young grandson — taking on such an active role in caregiving is unique, Robinson said.

Newton said the days he gets to spend with his grandfather are special.

“He’s just a really great guy,” he said.

Pompei said Newton is always patient, kind and respectful to his grandfather despite the challenges his Alzheimer’s symptoms can present.

“When Dad doesn’t want to listen to me, Grant can come in and get it done, whatever the task,” she said.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.