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A Granddaughter's Love for her Grandmother

January 11, 2017

A hero to North Shore Senior Center is one who inspires by his or her example, one who is able to move us to connect emotionally with North Shore Senior Center, one who motivates through all he or she is doing for others without expecting anything in return, or one who shares his or her time, talent or treasure to make another person’s life better.

When Diane Behnke started working at North Shore Senior Center in 2007, she was providing fresh bakery items and hot coffee in the A & A Café to members who came to attend programs. Little did she know that soon she would be providing far more important services to seniors. After three months, a position in Senior and Family Services opened up, and Diane left to become a case manager and never looked back.

With a love of the curious and knowledge of psychology, Diane fit well in Senior and Family Services. “There is much to do and many in need. In order to assist older adults in a timely and caring way, it’s important to get to know who your clients are, where they came from and what is meaningful within the context of their culture,” Diane shared. “This way I can help the client maintain his or her autonomy, while still providing necessary care and fight for what he or she needs.”

The framework of support for seniors typically begins with family, and for Diane, working to help foster the independence and well-being of her clients has meant to join with the family as a team to do so. When she met Lily and her grandmother, she found a structure that did just that.

As immigrants, Lily’s parents both had to work to provide for the family, which left her grandmother to raise her. “My grandmother was always there for me,” Lily said. “She was completely independent until she suffered a stroke.” Instead of requiring her to live in a nursing home, Lily chose to give her grandmother around-the-clock care due to their strong connection. “No one would love her and take care of her the way she had taken care of me.”

Lily wanted to make sure she was doing everything she could to support her grandmother, so she turned to North Shore Senior Center for help and was assigned to Diane as her case manager. “Diane helped my grandmother in so many ways,” Lily commented. “We were provided with Angel funds that allowed us to pay for food thickener and get diabetic shakes. When food stamps were cut, we were given food cards to buy fresh food that month. Diane also provided assistance with LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) so Grandmother could pay for her energy bills. When I was stressed and needed someone to talk things over with, Diane was there to listen and remind me to take of myself as well.”

For Diane, helping families like Lily and her grandmother is what makes her thrive and realize how inspired she has felt when those who are in need rely on her. “These individuals are vulnerable, and they are choosing to trust you in a situation where others may take advantage of them. It’s my job to help them live on what they can with dignity and self-respect.”

Something Lily truly appreciates. “Diane has made the obstacles we faced minor bumps in the road. She has made it easier to get the help my grandmother needs, and she has responded each time my grandmother’s needs have increased. North Shore Senior Center has helped me to provide and take care of my grandmother in my home, where both of us agree she belongs. That couldn’t have happened without people like Diane who act unselfishly and do good for people.”

Yet, Diane claims that Lily is the true everyday hero. “For me, an everyday hero is some who walks with conviction and follows his or her principles. Lily, in the way she takes care of her grandmother, is most assuredly one of those persons.”

Our seniors are very fortunate to have “everyday heroes” committed to helping them and impacting their lives. 

We encourage all of you to become “everyday heroes” of North Shore  Senior Center. Together, we will make a difference in the lives of the older adults we serve.