Being a great care professional requires a balance of professional skill with personal empathy and flexibility. We are always touched as we read Host Family submissions for our annual Care Professional of the Year award. We encourage you to read and be inspired on how an Apex Social care professional can make a difference for your family, as Physical Therapist Mia Z. (22, Germany, Rhön Academy) did for Heather & Joshua and their family:

Whirr!!! Vroom! Monday morning the blender roars to life, howling “time for smoothie bowls!” Our amazing care professional, Mia, started this tradition soon after arriving to start the family’s week with a nutritious kick and also as a clever way to help our then-2 year old son, William, with some of his therapy, particularly working on his fear of loud noises. In a matter of weeks Mia became the family member we never knew we were missing. Not only did she fully integrate as a member of our family, she helped us find new ways to run our house and traditions as a family.

Our son, William has speech delay, sensory issues, and emotional dysregulation which can vary in severity. Most of the time, his joy is so much his little body can barely contain it. Happiness is brimming from his eyes. His highs are like Mt. Everest. When his emotions turn, they do so rapidly and it can be difficult to understand what is upsetting him between his sobbing and screaming and speech delays. Mia has an almost palpable aura of happiness and love. This is her superpower, and the thing we love about her the most. She has been loving and patient with our son during these times and has been teaching him to express his emotions and grow his tolerance. For many months, our son would have a total breakdown if a single drop of water splashed onto this shirt. Mia coined the phrase, one of many she added to our family, that “the sun makes it dry” to calm him. This gave William the comfort and confidence to work on accepting the sensation with help. Mia then taught him to self-soothe himself with “the sun makes it dry.” One year later, wet clothes no longer bother him at all.

Many caretakers struggle to find the balance between stern and rigid versus kind and lenient. This dichotomy doesn’t exist for Mia. She is firm and loving all at the same time. Mia talks about rules as something our children should do, rather than as behaviors to avoid. Mia herself is always grounded, no matter what emotions are happening around her, and her love shines always.

Bang! Thunk! Whoosh goes the air from Mia’s lungs as she finishes a heavy set of barbell squats. Fitness is so important to Mia, and it might be the place where her dedication and drive are seen most easily. She has been lifting weights, biking, and jumping rope for years. She and my husband bonded over passion for weights and nutrition when California gyms were shut down with COVID and our home gym became their only option. Mia then found ways of sharing these values with our kids. In the mornings, the kids would have sips of their “brotein” shakes after doing a workout. If the kids are having too much energy before bedtime, they will do a round of Yoga or dance workout together. The children are so excited to see and share with Mia. Our biggest challenge is peeling them off her during the weekend!

Mia has completely risen to the COVID19 challenges. She cheerfully accepted the restrictions in California. While we weren’t able to give her the care professional year we all envisioned, we found other things to do together. She is such a go-getter. Mia picked up surfing during our beach week. When we travelled to Yosemite, Mia hiked half-dome on her own. Mia and I have bonded over evening board games, instagram, food, and talking about our lives and even parenting styles. She has been a true friend that I will miss dearly.

Most important, Mia was there for my family when we really needed it. As COVID wore on, my husband began to lose sleep and struggle with depression and anxiety. As he slowly receded from involvement with the family and into his own mind, Mia stepped forward. She found extra ways to help around the house and bring cheer. Her warmth and grace gave me support and strength to care for him, my children, and myself through his downward spiral, hospitalization, and eventual recovery. There is such a stigma around mental health, but Mia showed unconditional love and support.

Our family was incredibly blessed to have been joined by Mia this year. She has been a kind, energetic, and loving addition to our family. This has been a tough year and she rose to the challenge in every way. We believe Mia should be Care Professional of the Year. We are so grateful to Mia and Apex for our experience last year. We hope that Apex can recognize what we already know - Mia is truly the Care Professional of the Year.